Within the past year or so, no trend has been as polarizing as the beard.

As more and more men rock their facial hair—some even resorting to transplants—more and more research is released indicating whether or not women find them attractive. Some studies have concluded yes, while others insist no. But despite the conflicting data and the saturated market, guys are still jumping on the beard bandwagon. But why?

According to scientists at the University of Western Australia, it’s due to one simple and obvious reason: to attract women by looking dominant. The theory is based off of a study that discovered primate males became more occupied with standing out in increasing competitive environments. Scientists observed 154 different types of primates and found that each used distinguished ornaments as signs of ranking, strength, and attractiveness. Proboscis monkeys used elongated noses, golden snub-nosed monkeys donned upper lip warts, hamadryas baboons grew silver hair capes, and humans rocked beards.

“When you live in a small group where everyone knows everyone because of repeated interactions, there is no need to signal quality and competitiveness via ornaments,” Dr Grueter told the Daily Mail. “In large groups where individuals are surrounded by strangers, we need a quick reliable tool to evaluate someone's strength and quality, and that's where these elaborate ornaments come in.”

The “big environment” theory explains the growing bread trend among city dudes who have more male-on-male competition when compared to guys in smaller regions. So if you believe the studies and are looking for an edge, go ahead and sport the beard. Just don’t take it too far and start decorating it with flowers or dyeing it weird colors

[via The Daily Mail]