He doesn’t fear the beard. Dallas Keuchel, starting pitcher for the Houston Astros, has embraced the full facial hair look and it’s working for him on and off the field. Coming off a breakout season in 2014, the lefty started the 2015 All-Star Game for the American League, where he — and his beard — generated a fan following of hirsute look-alikes.

WWD caught up with the All-Star at MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J., this week to find out what started it all, the secret to a healthy beard, and why he studied fashion merchandising in college.

Tell us the story of your beard? When and why did you start to grow one?

Dallas Keuchel: It started when two of my best buddies back home kind of dared me to grow it out all season last year. I did that and once the season ended, I couldn’t really shave it just because of the superstition of me having a pretty good year. And now we’re here 17 months later.

Take us through your grooming regime — any special tricks or tips to keep your beard in shape?

DK: There were a few articles that came out about gentlemen and their beards not being clean, but I can attest that I shampoo and condition this thing twice a day, so it’s about as clean as you’re going to get it. A lot of brushing, a lot of combing, a lot of beard oil to keep it healthy. I’ve learned a few tricks the past couple months. I just try to keep it as nice as possible without it getting too bushy.

Is it high-maintenance when you’re eating or working out?

DK: I’m very cautious of when I eat — don’t want to get anything in the beard. That’s one of my biggest fears, but usually nothing really ever gets in it. I don’t ever get it tangled up. I wake up and it’s not all over the place. It’s neat just like this, it really is. I don’t know how, but it is.

Your beard has quite a fan following. Did you expect that it would be so notable?

DK: No, that wasn’t anything that I really thought about. I guess when the team started getting better, it got more notoriety. They have Keuchel’s Korner now at Minute Maid Park and then they give out T-shirts and fake beards. It’s pretty cool to see the support, but it was nothing that I thought would turn into a kind of frenzy.

We heard you were a fashion merchandising major in college. What interested you in that?

DK: I always had a love for shoes and athleticwear. And I figured I’d have a great in with baseball, if I could get in the professional ranks and up to the major leagues that would be a great boost to my life after baseball. And I know it’s not going to last forever so I might as well get my foot in the door while I’m at it.

Do you follow fashion while you’re playing?

DK: Absolutely. It’s something — not the New York fashion clothing lines — but just athleticwear and shoes. I’m a big fan of Nike and Jordans, so I collect a fair share of those sneakers. I got rid of a lot, but I’ve probably got around 65 or 70 pairs. I’m trying to get more into detailed shoes that I’m going to keep for a while.

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