If you’re looking for a fashion style packed with mystery and intellectualism, Dark Academia is what you’re after.
Inspired by classic literature, philosophy, Gothic architecture, and the arts, Dark Academia vintage cardigans, tweed blazers, and loafers showcase a love for learning and intellectualism.
At the same time, the Dark Academic style is excellent for expressing melancholic, occult, and even darker, tragic fashion themes.
Whether you’re a philosopher fashionista or a stylish bookworm, it’s time to explore the Dark Academia styles and add scholarly sophistication to your wardrobe.
What is Dark Academia?
Dark academia refers to a new aesthetic style that draws inspiration from the classic Greek arts, writing, and architecture, deeply infused with Gothic elements and concepts of death.
Dark Academia fashion style reflects a subculture emphasizing education, learning, reading, and writing, hence the ‘academic’ touch.
However, the’ dark’ gothic aesthetic influence makes Dark Academia fashion look so distinct from the classic academic style.
To best picture the ‘dark academia fashion,’ imagine someone wearing a pair of vintage tweed pants.
Add a stubby, thick yarn cardigan and a worn satchel packed with academic papers and books to that image.
The Dark Academic fashion style is filled with nostalgic vibes.
That is because the Dark Academia subculture aims to recreate the vibes of the 19th century of private English boarding schools and Ivy League colleges in New England.
Dark Academia Aesthetic
The Dark Academia fashion aesthetic draws much from Greek culture and arts and the Harry Potter films.
Dark Academia aesthetic, in particular, is popular with teenagers, posting pictures of the Harry Potter series-made wool sweaters, rich textures cardigans, chocolate brown pants, or even Dark Academia room aesthetic decors on social media.
Dark Academia Fashion
To fashion critics, the Dark Academia aesthetic resembles the classic preppy style.
Preppy became famous for its chinos, argyle, and crewneck sweaters.
Yet, Dark Academia fashion is more Autumn-Esque, with duller and darker color palettes.
Given its apparent heavy and Gothic constructs, like goth clothing, Dark Academia fashion is not that suitable for countries with long summers and hot weather all year round.
Dark Academia Outfits
Some of the most popular Dark Academia styles right now are built on three core things:
First, the garments you put together must be vintage, from thrift stores or online websites selling secondhand fashion, with a gothic vibe.
Second, the overall style must augment the intellectual look.
Try to complement the leather-bound books, handwritten notes, and rolled maps in your handbag.
Third, each popular Dark Academia style relies on some of the staples I enumerate below.
Blouses & Tops
Choose blouses with cuffed sleeves – it helps create that extra touch of British heritage.
You should also choose blouses with oversized bell sleeves to achieve that unique academic look.
For a more sophisticated Dark Academia look, go for tops that you can button up.
I wear a lot of versatile wrap tops made of silk.
Not only is silk super cool and breathable in the summertime, but distressed silk tops confer me with a rebellious, unique style.
Skirts & Trousers
For a super stylish and refined Dark Academia look, I recommend you to go for long skirts.
Easier and more comfortable when compared to trousers.
Also, long skirts are preferable to trousers if you live in a hot country.
Why? Because skirts protect your legs from the sun while allowing ventilation simultaneously.
However, if you wear trousers, remember that wool blends and corduroy materials are best for this style.
I also wear trousers, and I often cut them at ankle height for an extra bit of a nonconformist look.
But, if you don’t know how to cut and sew back trousers, cuff them up to create that kind of sailor, tapered look.
Remember the glorified tweed blazer of the 50s fashion?
The tweed blazer is the best outerwear for the Dark Academia look.
Just make sure you put it over your shoulders without the sleeves on.
The tweed blazer also goes great with dark straight-leg women’s jeans.
The opinions are split regarding which shoes are best for the Dark Academia aesthetic.
Some prefer open shoes, just like the ancient Romans and Greeks.
Others argue that there are no sandals in Harry Potter movies and insist on boots and low chunky heels.
I prefer boots as they allow me to emphasize the Gothic look I love.
Yet, regardless of what shoes you choose, make sure you do not match flip-flops with the Dark Academia style. Seriously, don’t ever do that!
A perfect example of a dark Academia summer outfit is a white t-shirt with an oversized check linen blazer and brogue lace-ups.
Dark Academia clothes are great for cities with colder climates.
Nevertheless, some of you also insist on wearing this style in the summer.
If that’s your case, there are some ways around as I’m going to explain below:
To start with, you must pick only all-natural fabrics.
Avoid polyester and plastic blends at all costs.
Compared to blends, natural fibers absorb moisture fast.
Especially if you sweat a lot, these organic fabrics will let your body ventilate easily.
From all-natural fibers, these are the top 4 you should wear:
- Linen offers excellent ventilation, and it is much better for the environment as well.
- Organic cotton is a light material that’s also easy to wear. Moreover, organic cotton has minimal impact on the environment.
- Silk is light, relaxing, and easy to wear. Preferably, if you buy new garments, go for cruelty-free silk. Also, there’s something magical about vintage silk.
- Wool is also an excellent alternative to cotton in the summer since it is a breathable fabric. It can also be very suitable on the colder days of winter.
Why is Dark Academia So Popular Right Now?
Dark Academia became popular when schools from all over the world came to a halt.
Because of the Coronavirus lockdowns, there weren’t any more classes or studies abroad.
There were no more graduations, proms, or fashion show-offs.
And teenagers who missed going to school have chosen a style that keeps them somehow connected.
True, the concept of Dark Academia fashion precedes the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, during the lockdowns, the 14 to 24 years old have started to flood social media platforms with school-like outfits.
And the gloomy feel of COVID-19 brought the Gothic vibe out, and people started to tag pics with the ‘Dark Academia’ moniker.
However, the Dark Academia subculture is most popular among three groups in particular:
The idea behind any Dark Academia style is to construct a look that reflects and accentuates your “cultural self.”
Rocking this style does not require a countryside mansion with a big kitchen for baking and a field of flowers.
In fact, some of the best representatives of the Dark Academia style are students such as Laura Piszczatowska, a history graduate from Norway.
“My favourite academia outfits consists of tweed pants, black turtlenecks, elegant boots, and long thrift coats,” she said.
Laura also runs ‘Geminnorum,’ a Dark Academia Instagram account with over 28,000 followers.
“Dark Academia fashion styles suit the LGBTQ+ community as well“
says Evelyn Meyer, a supporter of Dark Academia male looks and creator of ‘Dark Academia Check Sound.’
Evelyn’s views are reinforced by Dilara Scholz, a researcher in fashion history at Royal Holloway, University of London:
“Androgynous vintage blazers are representative for the Dark Academia aesthetic”
Dilara considers herself an adherent of the Dark Academia subculture.
“Most Dark Academia silhouettes remind of the 1940s men’s look. It is a style that can be worn by anyone who does not fit into any gender definition,”
The style’s success with the LGBTQ+ community is, in part, credited to books that feature LGBTQ+ characters, such as ‘If We Were Villains‘ by M.L. Rio and ‘Kill Your Darlings‘ by Allen Ginsberg.
“A good part of Dark Academia is aesthetics. But, the more you explore the styles, the more you connect to other people like you. The main point here is a common desire to learn”
said Declan Lyman, 15, who posts Dark Academia videos on TikTok.
Even though it’s about classics and styles, Dark Academia is a very open community,” said Lucien K, 21, who posts about Dark Academia styles on TikToks, or about himself reading books and doing makeups. “It’s also about breaking stereotypes regardless of gender or sexuality”
3. Plus Size
The Dark Academia subculture has shown the same openness toward plus-size people.
“I was afraid to wear anything that would accentuate my body shapes and weight. However, after falling in love with the style I’ve realised that if I wear clothes that make me feel happy and confident, any fear goes away,”
told us Helen Belfort, a student at the University of Oxford, UK.
However, finding suitable Dark Academia outfits for plus size remains challenging.
And, just like Helen, I am also falling into this category.
In the past, I’ve tried to find complete Dark Academia outfits.
It was so hard. My struggle to find suitable garments is one of the main reasons I am writing and sharing this article with you.
I’ve discovered that it is much easier to buy individual pieces than whole outfits.
Moreover, I love creating unique looks as I put the parts together one by one.
Here are the best places to shop Dark Academia plus size right now:
- Online Thrift Stores are the best places to shop Dark Academia for plus size, especially if you’re looking for rare pieces. Also, buying from vintage and online thrift shops is the most sustainable fashion to shop for clothing right now.
- Cato is one of my favorite places to find pleated dress pants. They also have button-down shirts, vintage blazers, and pencil skirts. I also like Cato because they have special offers very often, and I never spent more than $20 on any piece.
- Everlane is my other favorite, particularly for blazers. More expensive than Cato, but the quality is excellent.
- Torrid is the best for its excellent corduroy creations and pants.
- H&M+ is known for some rare plus-size gothic pieces.
- Target is worth visiting for their Ava + Viv line.
- Amazon is the best shop for cheap Dark Academia clothes and bargains.
Other similar aesthetics are Light Academia and Cottagecore, which are taking over the internet, particularly TikTok and Instagram, in 2023.
Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!
Now it’s your turn…
What is your favorite Dark Academia clothing brand?
What are your favorite Dark Academia summer outfits?
What is your biggest problem when choosing the Dark Academia style?
Is there any other similar style you would like us to cover?
Would love to hear your thought and comments below!
A University of Oxford graduate in Design History, Katherine Saxon is researching arising TikTok cultures from a consumer psychology perspective while covering emerging aesthetics in fashion and beauty for TheVOU, Forbes, Business Insider, and more.
Softcore for me. I think most of the outfits in these pictures are just preppy or just too mainstream. Where’s the hardcore dark academia, with gothic s..it and stuff?
I tend to agree, I also feel that the looks presented here are a bit too preppy and light-colored, at least for my taste. As a former 80s hardcore goth, I have a view of what the “Dark” aesthetic of “Dark Academia” should look like. I wouldn’t be caught dead (pun?) in any of the clothes shown here. 😉
And it’s mostly LIGHT academia. :<
I’m a guy (24), but since the available articles on fashion – and especially subculture fashion like this – are very sparse, I rely on sources like this.
And, am very thankful for them! (I am actually writing a bachelor thesis on “the Edwardian fashion in current popular culture”, so to me, reading this article is TECHNICALLY my schoolwork, lol)
I personally love my waistcoats, I have 2 from thrift stores and one from my grandfather (talk about true vintage!), also double-breasted blazers, and TWEED FOREVER!
I can HEAVILY relate to the trouble with summer, even before dressing like this I hated summer, nowadays it’s a nightmare.
I personally try to solve it by wearing 100% linen stuff.
It lacks the gothic vibe, but at least you don’t sweat so much.
Good luck to everyone, especially during these tough times!
Hey, any chance you’re done your thesis by now? I’d love to give it a read if that’s possible! Sounds like a super interesting topic!
This was a very interesting read.
For summer, I found that the (minimalistic) Mediterranean/Provençal fashion style fits well with Dark Academia.
Think: (off-)white linen shirts, blouses, and dresses. Brown leather shoes, sandals, and heels. Brown leather handbags or a woven straw bag. A dark linen pants, sand colored trousers, and straw hats, etc.
It also fits thematically because for one it draws further on the classical, Greek influences, and two because in Art History I’ve learned that a lot of great artists moved or traveled to the South of France for various reasons.
There was even a moment in British history where the people were sort of cut off from mainland Europe and because they couldn’t travel to France anymore they started to go on vacation to the south of the UK. Apparently, there is a place there that sort of looks Mediterranean and people could pretend they were in France.
Anyway, I’m getting off-topic… The Provençal style also uses a lot of natural fabrics like linen, silk organic cotton, and wool.
So you can have pieces in your wardrobe that works for both seasons.
I recommend looking on Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration for this summer style. That’s how I found out about it.
PS: English isn’t my first language so I apologize for any spelling mistakes.
Putting on checkered pants and a shint doesn’t mean its dark academia. I’ll politely tell you to stop.Ps. Not gatekeeping, this is embarrassing and a bad look for the actual genre.
I couldnt find the “Geminnorum” instagram account you have mentioned… could someone please send me a link ?!
Whenever I hear or see dark academia aesthetic, Harry Potter comes to mind.
I run a leather jacket company and I put my link in lots of blogs and after looking at the pics (can’t read for too long) and seeing you don’t have l;either jackets I wonder if there’s leather jackets designed for this style, and if I can help you to improve the article by sending over some of our jackets? Let me kmnow