By Parade Magazine
"For us, you're encouraged to grow your hair out at work," says Willie Robertson, 40. "Bathing, showering—that's an option. It's liberating to us. We let it go and be wild."
The Robertsons made a vast fortune—and subsequently scored a hugely successful reality show on A&E, now in its second season—producing high-quality duck calls with their Louisiana-based family business, Duck Commander.
"When Duck Commander was just duck calls and we weren't making any money, [my dad] Phil [Robertson] would tell us, 'Boys, one of these days we're going to sell a million dollars of these,'" Robertson, the company's CEO, says. "We didn't have very many options at the time, so it sounded pretty good to us. And we did it."
Robertson talked to Parade.com about maintaining his beard, how Duck Dynasty has changed the family dynamic, and dealing with newfound fame.
On why the men in the family have long beards.
"The original purpose of the beards was to help with the wind when it's blowing in your face. When you're out there in the woods hunting like we are all the time, we found that facial hair helps you to stay a lot warmer. That's where it came from, and it morphed into the look we have now. Somebody once asked my dad, 'How long have you been growing that beard?' He said, 'I ain't growing it. It's doing that on its own.'"
On whether the beards are uncomfortable.
"Once you get used to it, it's not bad. I think 1988 was the last time Phil shaved his beard. He lost a bet to a preacher, shaved his beard, and wore a suit and he said he'd never do it again. When [my brother] Jase and I were younger and running the business, we thought we had to clean it up and put suits on to have business meetings with big companies. But about eight years ago, I told Jase, 'Forget that. Let's just go like we normally are.'"
On whether he wishes he could ever shave it all off.
"No, no. Sometimes in the heart of the summer, I look at people with their faces shaved and think it'd be nice, but once you get used to it, it's not as hot. Most guys say it gets itchy, but once you grow it out into a big man beard, the itching is gone."
On how he maintains his beard.
"I just run my fingers through it, stick my head out the window to dry it off after showering, and roll with it. I condition my hair, so whatever ends up dripping down into it is conditioned. It's softer than you would think."
On how his wife, Korie feels about the beard.
"She likes it. As long as the checks keep rolling in, she keeps liking that beard more and more, the more successful we get. In fact, the last time I shaved, she said, 'I think you should just grow it back.' And I don't know what she was saying, whether my face didn't look quite like it used to or she just really liked it, but she's used to it. My youngest child has never seen me without it, and the last time I shaved, my older son started crying because he was used to the beard."
On watching the show together as a family.
"We laugh our heads off. If I'm not in a scene, then I don't know what they did, so I laugh just like everyone else does. And you never know how it's going to come out after editing. We'll make comments about that day, or the day we filmed it, and how hard it was."
On where the Robertsons get their famous sense of humor.
"We've always had that. The inspiration for the show was growing up around the dinner table. As kids, we always sat at the table with my parents and grandparents, and they would tell stories. We were very poor, so that was our entertainment—getting good at telling stories. So if you were a kid and you told a story, it better be good because you're holding the audience there. I really think that's how we learned and shaped our charisma."
On how the show has changed the Robertson family dynamic.
"Doing TV and all the fame that comes with it can start tearing families apart. Honestly, we've grown closer through doing this. We've actually spent more time together while doing the show. We were successful before this show came along, and I would travel a lot, like most CEOs do. We would still get together often, but now, with filming, we're together all the time. We get to share in it as a family. Even my kids are on the show, so it's not like one person broke out and became famous—it's everybody. Nobody lets each other get a big head. It's been very positive for our family."
On the show's surprising cultural influence.
"It's really cool for us to be able to show our family values. At the end of every show, we get together and have a prayer, and I talk about what we learned, so it's really cool hearing about how people are starting to implement that in their own lives. We got an email from a 7-year-old kid who told his mom, 'Mom, we're all sitting around the dinner table like the Robertsons do.' It's pretty cool seeing that effect on people rather than just being a trainwreck and fighting all the time."
On getting recognized in public.
"I haven't found a hat and sunglasses that'll cover up this look, so I get recognized quite often. It comes with the terrain and I'm used to it. Sometimes at the airport, if you're trying to get through and you're about to miss your flight, or I'm just running up to buy groceries, it gets a little old. But I tell everybody, when that quits happening, the show's probably not as good. I love it when little kids come up to me. I try to get down and hear what they have to say and ask them who their favorite person is."
On his reaction to the success of the show.
"Most of the things we've done, we've been successful at. But to be number one on cable is like, 'wow.' When I first saw the show, I thought, 'This is good.' I certainly didn't go into it thinking it would be mediocre. It is overwhelming at times to look how many people watch it, and no matter where I go, they're quoting the lines to me."
On how the show has affected Duck Commander business.
"It's certainly exploded. One of the hard things of doing the show has been continuing to run the business at the same time, which is a whole other job in itself. We've struggled trying to meet demand. I've hired probably 40 people since the show came out, just trying to maintain that. Making duck calls is a skill. You can't grab these off the street and throw a duck call together."
On the best part of the reality TV experience.
"The most fun part is doing it together as a family, and not having to sacrifice this for them. I get to work, and we film all the shows at our house or in our town. I don't look up and say, 'Man, I don't ever get to see my kids.' The coolest part is doing it and not missing a lick with the family."
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