The Fashion



The Internet is a place where many aesthetics were born. One of them is dark academia, an aesthetic subculture that values knowledge and tweed.  

Look out autumn/winter 2020, dark academia is here to stay – and we're all about it.

Dark academia is growing in popularity since schools closed down due to COVID-19. Many people connected with the community of like-minded bookish peers have since discovered their fashion sense and class in a time when there were no classes. 

But what is dark academia exactly?  

More than an Aesthetic 

There is more to the dark academia aesthetic than bookshelves full of Greek tragedies and white candles that light up a Gothic-inspired room. Some say the style romanticizes education - particularly higher education - and the pursuit of knowledge. 


The aesthetic was inspired by the literary genre that set its books in Hogwarts-like elite private schools.

Those who associate themselves with the style are often bookworms and pride themselves in reading great works of literature, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. 

 It goes without saying that this aesthetic is closely connected to and inspired by literature.  

However, the general idea is that people who choose the dark academia aesthetic are drawn to learning, which doesn't necessarily make just literature worthy of being associated with the aesthetic. 


Dark academia takes a lot of inspiration from the Gothic subculture, so it is not strange that the mindset many members have is centred on appreciating the gloomier side of life. 

But don't be quick to pin pessimism to the dark academia lifestyle because romantic longing and death are accepted as a part of life, and beauty can be found even in the ugliest parts of being human. 

Dark academia is a lifestyle that encourages you to fill your lungs with poetry and knowledge about the world around you while having the memento mori in mind, similar to Dead Poets Society. 

As Mary Shelley said in Frankenstein: 

"Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it."

Why is Dark Academia Popular Right Now? 

Dark academia is a subculture, and as such, it appeared as the response to something else in our society. 

It became popular on TikTok and Tumblr during quarantine because schools shut down, and people still wanted to create a sense of community and also connect with people who enjoy books and share similar interests. 

When the outfits and garments typical for dark academia are watched closely, you can see that they resemble uniforms of preppy schools or even outfits college professors might wear. 

They also might indicate that students became their professors during COVID-19. 

The palette of colours is also typical for autumn, and it focuses on brown with the black and white basics. 

The style suggests nostalgia for the regular school year before coronavirus turned everything upside down.

Dark Academia Fashion Must-Haves

Dark academia is a fashion and lifestyle aesthetic that emulates the look of prestigious schools such as Ivy League colleges. It is a fashion sense that looks like something costume designers for Harry Potter, Kill Your Darlings, and Dead Poets Society worked tirelessly together to create. 

Dark academia outfits are school appropriate as they are not revealing, and they do not lack elegance nor class.  

Materials such as velvet, tweed, and cashmere are a recognizable part of the dark academia aesthetic that makes you look stylish and ready to learn. 

Typical dark academia clothes that you can use to recreate the aesthetic include tweed skirts, leather satchels, cardigans, turtlenecks, flat shoes, etc. 

The look is also often androgynous and thrifted, which makes it fit almost anyone but is also affordable. 

This fashion aesthetic also has a witchy component, and the style can be visually linked to the Harry Potter universe. 


Therefore, big hats to lift any combination are welcome, as well as any garments that make you look like the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.   

Accessories are otherwise very toned down and minimalistic. 

Most dark academia inspired outfits will feature a very thin golden or silver chain over a turtleneck with a tiny circular pendant that may or may not have trapped the soul of a fellow student who was recently mysteriously murdered on the school grounds.  

Watches and glasses are also a regular part of the outfit. 

Criticism of Dark academia

You might think that the aesthetic that values education and knowledge will be immune to criticism. 

However, there is a lot to unpack concerning elitism and lack of inclusivity on dark academia's part. 

That is because dark academia is based on the literary genre that has issues in their writing, the elite schools it is associated with, and great works of literature popular among members. 

Let's start with elitism. 

Dark academia is closely associated with private schools and the gothic subculture. 

Private schools are exclusive as they accept only the best of the best but also those who are higher class, wealthy, and come from influential families have a greater chance of getting such an education. 

This link of higher social standing and elite schools is why scandals such as celebrities buying their spot in elite Ivy League Universities occur in the first place. 

Dark academia also takes a lot from the Gothic aesthetic, be it the Gothic literary genre (hence the popularity of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), appreciation of Gothic architecture, or fashion. 

The Gothic subculture, as almost all other subcultures creates elitism that does not enable just anyone to be a part of the group. 

For instance, if you are a new Goth and buy fast (popular) fashion, Gothic garments, or simply don't know much about obscure typically Gothic things, you might be excluded. 

Dark academia's dark side also displays similar elitism issues that stem from their members who might exclude others who are not interested in specific complex works of literature. 


Interest in literature is a big thing for dark academia, but that is also the reason the style itself, which is linked to issues the literature carries with it. 

Namely, it is deemed as not inclusive of people of colour because the works popular in the dark academia community are often the greatest Western works of literature that are very Eurocentric.   

Light Academia 

"If there be light, then there is darkness," said Pythagoras. And vice versa, as academia aesthetics suggest. 

Light academia, similarly to dark academia, is a lifestyle and requires a different shift in mind, focusing on lighter themes. 

While dark academia focuses on bleak parts of life and finds beauty in objectively negative occurrences, light academia appreciates small joys in life, ordinary things, the outdoors, and simplicity. 

That is also visible in the aesthetic that features a lighter palette of colours but still looks similar to the dark academia style. It keeps the staples of the dark academia wardrobe such as tweed, minimalistic accessories, skirts, pantsuits, and shirts. 

Final Word

Dark academia is a beautiful and stylish aesthetic, but it is also much more than that. It celebrates knowledge and learning, books, and literature. The style is a more affordable option in comparison to other similar subcultures such as Gothic or cottagecore. 


So, what are you waiting for? Find a cosy book-reading space, light a candle, and experiment with this brilliant style. 

About me

Combining my love for fashion and writing, I completed a masters in journalism and public relations all whilst working in the fashion industry.


I could go on and on about why I would make the perfect copywriter for you, but that would take months, years even.


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