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Everything you need to know about dark academia

May 13, 2021

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Everything you need to know about dark academia

Thanks to Tumblr and TikTok, there’s a new aesthetic on the scene. ‘Dark Academia’ is a dream come true for any book nerd. If you’ve ever wished you could transport yourself away to a Defence Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts, then it’s likely this aesthetic is right up your street. It’s a blend of classic fashion staples with a neutral-colour palette and mysterious aura. The term ‘Dark Academia’ refers to the aesthetic overall, which includes gothic architecture and classical music.


Even though it’s a relatively new trends, there’s over 700k posts on the #darkacademia on Instagram alone. You can take a peek inside to get a feel for what the trend is all about. If you’re someone who spends their free time getting lost in a bookstore, this trend is your new paradise.


If you’re thinking of changing up your aesthetic or look, dark academia might be just the one for you. We’re covering everything you need to know about the style and how you can incorporate it into your closet.

What is Dark Academia?

Dark academia is an aesthetic that takes its inspiration from architecture, Greek art, and classical writing. The aesthetic often touches on Gothic elements, with the concept of death featuring heavily within other aspects of the style outside of fashion. Dark academia was built from the sub-culture within popular social media apps like Tumblr that emphasis education above all else, with a focus on reading and learning. This sub-culture is where the ‘academia’ portion of the name comes from.


What makes dark academia different than what you might see an everyday college student wearing is its darker colour palette and gothic influence.


Your classic dark academia outfit is a crisp white shirt, dainty necklace, classic watch, tailored pants, and oxford loafers. Don’t forget to carry a book with you wherever you go! Anyone who falls into the dark academia aesthetic owns at least one pair of tweed trousers.
Most people who follow this trend shop for their clothing second-hand to fully embrace the academic look. Most of the key pieces that make up the look are inspired by the fashion of the 1960s. In fact, most of the outfits are a more contemporary take on what was worn at Ivy League schools during the 19th century.

Where the Aesthetic Comes From?

If you’ve ever watched a Harry Potter film and imagined what Hogwarts would be like in real life, that’s pretty much what the dark academia aesthetic is. In fact, most people take their inspiration directly from the Harry Potter books and films. You’ll often see social media users pointing to characters like Hermione Granger as their style inspiration.


Most of the key fashion pieces from the series are a common sight within the dark academia aesthetic. You’ll see plenty of wool sweaters, oversized cardigans, and brown pants.


You can consider the dark academia aesthetic to be the more muted sister of the preppy trend. Another way of looking at it is to think of preppy as a spring look, and dark academia as the autumn equivalent. It has the same love for argyle and crewneck sweaters. While preppy fashion focuses more on lighter colours and nautical themes, dark academia has a darker colour palette. Most people who subscribe to the dark academia look have experimented with the preppy aesthetic before.

Why Is Dark Academia Popular?

Dark Academia is a product of the pandemic. While the style had been slowly growing in popularity, it was largely considered as a niche within social media. It’s now found its way into the mainstream of fashion to become a full-blown aesthetic.


You could argue that the events of the pandemic have given society a more gothic vibe, which is tapped into by the dark academia aesthetic.


While anyone can experiment with the dark academia, there are three groups who have a particular love for the aesthetic. The trend has been driven by high school and college students who found themselves studying from home and yearning for the comforts of the library.


It’s also popular amongst people who prefer a genderless fashion aesthetic. It’s popular amongst members of the LGBTQ+ community as it blurs gender lines and focuses on pieces that anyone can wear. Most of the inspiration for the fashion of the aesthetic comes from the menswear of 1940s, the same era when women were starting to wear trousers and experiment with more ‘masculine’ clothing for the first time.


Although dark academia has a ‘look’ to it, it doesn’t have the same stereotypes as other fashion aesthetic. If you subscribe to dark academia, you can still show off your personality and uniqueness in the process.


Another group who are at the heart of dark academia is the plus-size community. Arguably, dark academia is a conservative way of dressing, which often suits plus size individuals more than low-cuts and miniskirts. As the aesthetic focuses around elevated basics, you can pick up pieces from almost any store – from H&M to Amazon or online thrift stores.

What to Wear During Summer?

It’s easy to assume that the dark academia aesthetic is one you can only wear in the autumn and winter. After all, it focuses primarily on a darker colour palette. While it’s easier to wear year-round in colder climates, there are still ways of making it summer appropriate.


During the summer, you want to put away your thicker fabrics like wool and cashmere. Choose all-natural fabrics like cotton that are more breathable and naturally absorb moisture to keep you comfortable as the temperatures start to rise.


There are three fabrics that you want to add to your summer closet to stay within the dark academia aesthetic.


Linen will keep you ventilated all summer long, and it’s a material that is minimally harm to the environment. While cotton is a popular choice, you want to search for the organic alternative as it has a lower carbon footprint and is a better choice for the environment. If you want a more elevated look, keep an eye out for vintage silk pieces. If you’re buying your silk brand-new, make an effort to find cruelty-free silk.

The Essential Dark Academia Pieces

If you’re thinking of experimenting with this aesthetic, there’s a few pieces that you’ll need for your closet. You might have some of these already, or you may need to go out and refresh your closet. If you want a ‘true’ dark academia look, it’s best to purchase your clothes vintage or pre-loved from thrift stores or online sites like Etsy or Depop. You can usually save a little money by purchasing your items second-hand.


Unlike other styles, dark academia is an all-encompassing aesthetic. It’s about more than just the clothes you wear. You want to have a leather-bound book, round glasses, and handwritten letters in your bag. Your makeup looks so be more minimalistic and classic, avoiding dramatic eye makeup and instead focusing on a flawless base and a subtle lipstick colour.  


The best way of thinking about dark academia clothing is to view it as elevated basics and classic vintage pieces.


Blouses and button-up shirts as a focal point of the look and are easy to mix and match with other pieces. They should be top of your shopping list. If you want a more formal look, don’t forget to look for blouses that have a cuffed sleeve. If you prefer a slightly more feminine twist, keep an eye out for blouses that have a peter pan colour or small intricate detailing. Silk is a go-to fabric choice for blouses and shirts.

If you’re someone who prefers skirts over trousers, you want to stick to a longer silhouette. Mini skirts aren’t considered part of the dark academia look. Instead, you want your skirts to be at least knee length – if not longer.


For trousers, woold-blend and corduroy materials are a classic choice. It’s a good idea to buy a few tailored trousers that you can use as staples for your dark academia closet. If you fall in love with a vintage pair that doesn’t fit, you can take them to a seamstress to have the hem lifted and the waistband brought in for a custom fit.


One staple of the aesthetic that you should have no trouble finding is a tweed blazer. When you’re taking your dark academia Instagram photos, you want to throw your blazer over your shoulders, leaving your sleeves loose and your arms out to carry your books and breakfast tea.


For footwear, you want to stick to the classics. Again, you can take inspiration directly from the Harry Potter films. Consider the sort of shoes you would imagine a Hogwarts professor wearing. Boots are a classic choice and will work with anything from long skirts to cigarette trousers. If you’re a fan of wearing heels, choose a still with a block heel instead of stilettoes. While you may get away with a pair of white sneakers, you want to avoid wearing anything ‘modern’ like slides or flip flops.


What do you think of the dark academia aesthetic? Is it one that you’re interested in trying? Let us know in the comments below!

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