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What Your Coworker’s Whimsical Socks Are Trying to Tell You: a Guide

Businessman Wearing Individualistic Socks Between Two of His ColleaguesBusinessman Wearing Individualistic Socks Between Two of His Colleagues
Cute orange stockings, or a desperate cry for help? Flying Colours Ltd Getty Images

The quiet, air-conditioned, corporate open-plan office is a hotbed of silent communication.

Seemingly insignificant gestures carry heavy meaning: your seat at the conference table, the brand of your watch, or the width of your tie. But there is no louder, yet more subtle, method of expressing yourself than the dress sock.

What exactly does that two-inch fabric strip of rebellious whimsy signify? Below, a handy guide for what your coworker’s “fun” socks really mean.

The Collegiate Sock

In this basic sartorial maneuver, donning the socks of a college or university usually denotes the wearer’s alma mater.

Your coworker is trying to tell you, “I went to Yale. I’m not sure how you’ve neglected to comment on my Yale coffee mug, license plate cover, or mouse pad. I am sitting with one leg crossed over, holding my shoe for a reason. We are going to have this conversation.”

The Argyle Sock

The classic pattern represents a coworker of understated sensibilities.

Your coworker is saying, “I am but a person of simple tastes. If you would like to discuss the latest PGA tour standings, I will gladly do so. Just please don’t ask me how I voted in 2016.”

The Polka-Dot Sock

The polka dot is the universal sign of whimsy—but not too much.

When it appears on your coworker’s sock, they’re trying to let you know, “Yes, I’m the one who reported you to HR for listening to music at your desk, but I also like to have fun.”

The Anchor-Print Sock

The nautical theme is a common motif in workplace couture. Anchor-print socks are subtly aspirational, unless they’re not.

These socks could be saying, “I have a boat, or plan to own one in the future.” But it could also mean, “My preppy East Coast family has been projecting unrealistic expectations on me since birth, and I’m sinking. This life is slowly drowning me.”

Then again, it could be the boat thing.

The Horizontal-Stripe Sock

Vertical stripes are known for their slimming effect. Horizontal stripes are the opposite. Your coworker is attempting to make themselves appear as wide as possible. “I am a force to be reckoned with,” they’re saying, with their socks. “Also, these were the only ones on sale at J. Crew.”

The No-Show Sock

The ankles-out coworker is a wild card. They are on the cutting edge of high fashion, to the point of danger.

They’re saying, “I’m aware of the latest trends. I’m also willing to chafe in exchange for style. Yes, the socks I’m wearing underneath look like ballet slippers—and they are adorable.”

The Athletic Sock

Gym socks, with formal work attire, is a display of function over form. The practicality should be respected, but also serve as a sign of caution.

These socks say, “If you make our 4:30 p.m. meeting run even two minutes over, I’ll be stuck in the post-work rush in the weight room, and it will be your fault. I won’t forget that.”

The Geometric-Shapes Sock

Geometric shapes laid out in optical illusion-type patterns, are often mistaken as an homage to M.C. Escher. The underlying message is much more dire.

These socks say, “I have a bachelor’s in fine arts. Like this blue rhombus, I used to have dreams! But now I’m just trying to reduce operational expenses—while still maintaining year-over-year growth!”

The Plain White Sock

Mid-calf, plain white socks send one message, and one message only: “You’ll never find the body.”

For more satire from Fortune, click here.