Best Light Academia Guide In 2022
Outfits, Aesthetics, Fashion, Quotes, Books, Themes
Compared to many fleeting and short-lived trends emerging during the lockdown, Light Academia has cemented its place in the books of fashion and aesthetics for a good reason.
In this article, I’ll share the origin of the light academia aesthetic and its growing role in fashion.
I’ll also introduce you to the ‘academia color palette,’ the most popular (and affordable) academia style pieces, and the best academia fashion brands you can buy right now.
Overall, this is a must-read article if you want the best advice on how to create your academia-style wardrobe for years to come.
What is Light Academia Aesthetic?
If you’ve landed on this page, you probably already have a pretty good idea about what dark academia is.
Dark tones, heavy knitwear, and ancient, Hogwarts-worthy libraries come to mind when thinking about it.
On the other hand, light academia offers a visually lighter twist on its goth-leaning counterpart, creating an aesthetic that carries with it an air of refreshing positivity.
Even if you’re not a student, it’s not hard to fall for the undeniable appeal of light academia and its preppy nonchalance, as displayed in collections of beautiful pastel color palettes.
The style’s inspiration is deeply anchored in the classical influences of European universities.
Yet, the aesthetic is being boldly pushed into a new conceptual era by some of its proponents.
Breaking from the Western canons and introducing new cultural aspects to the mix gives light academia the edge to gain a dedicated fanbase worldwide.
Light Academia vs Dark Academia
Dark academia can be the perfect reference point to light academia.
For that, to better understand the light academia aesthetic and fashion, let’s have a look at the differences between the two:
LIGHT vs DARK ACADEMIA
According to The New York Times, dark academia aesthetic first emerged last year on TikTok.
With the pandemic, the school worldwide entered into lockdown, and thus, everyone’s social lives transferred to the online sphere.
The style brought together those who shared a passion for learning.
Moreover, specific fashion choices – think Ivy League-style pieces and cozy knits – soon followed, constructing the aesthetic’s distinctive personality.
Taking a deep dive into the themes offered by the two contrasting styles, it becomes apparent why light academia fashion has emerged as the natural answer to its counterpart.
On the one hand, light academia outfits promote optimism, friendship, motivation, and happy endings over pessimism, sadness, and sensitivity.
In contrast, dark academia is rooted in rather doom-focused themes that include literary tragedy, the meaning of life, escapism, and death.
What naturally links the two is a passion for acquiring knowledge in the fields of classic literature, music, art, or history – meaning that if you’re a keen learner, it’ll probably strike a stylistic chord with you.
LIGHT vs DARK ACADEMIA
Fashion-wise, the difference between light and dark becomes apparent by only looking at the aesthetic’s names.
What visually differentiates the clothing styles of dark academia fashion from light academia fashion is the unquestionably color palette.
Compared to dark academia, based on dark browns, gray and black, the light academia fashion style leans into lighter and brighter variations of beiges, browns, and pastels.
From number seven – on Tumblr’s Top 10 aesthetics at the end of 2021 – with dark academia taking the second spot right behind, quite predictably, cottagecore aesthetic – light academia aesthetic is in the top 3 right now in 2022.
The climb in rankings can also be explained by the season – we’re in the middle of the summer – so lighter and brighter outfits are preferred over darker, heavier tones.
According to Amanda Brennan – Tumblr’s trend expert and meme librarian – an overall engagement increase around the light academia trend was spotted around the back-to-school time in September, with it spiking 117% in the second week of the month.
That dynamic is hardly surprising – after all, we were all after some light-heartedness following the turbulent events of the first half of 2021, and that is what light academia has to offer.
“Light academia is an aesthetic that focuses on the softer and gentler side of dark academia,“
“It still embodies the love of learning, but with an airier, less doom-focused feel that shows that knowledge brings light and happiness in the outdoors rather than a gothic darkness seen curled up in a corner.”
Light Academia Fashion
You don’t need to be a book warm to embrace the preppy aesthetics of academic-inspired fashion.
Popular selling apps like Depop noted that searches for “light academia” started picking up last summer and later went up by 900% in October, showing that the trend is only attracting more fashion mavens.
In context, searches for dark academia on the same platform increased by more than 500% between June and December.
Depop is not the only place where light academia aesthetic is taking over: pleated skirts, dress shirts, sweater vests, flowy dresses, button-down shirts, ruffle socks, hair ribbons, and any style aesthetic resembling the student life goes.
On Pinterest, the number of pinners tagging light academia clothing and light academia clothes was 236 times greater than in December the year before.
Faith runs a Depop store called ‘Thrifting Is For Cool Kids,’ and academia-influenced pieces are at the core of her enormous success.
The aesthetic is spreading so fast that Faith’s audience grew to over 13,000 people and over 750 sales – all in less than a year.
“My Depop shop is my style, which is cottagecore and academia,“
“That’s one of the main things that has helped me so much…
… because I sell pieces that I would wear, and it attracts people of the same crowd who enjoy the same fashion sense.”
“Calling all dark and light academia lovers. This one’s for you,”
announced Faith by posting a neutral-hued drop on her Instagram account after noticing that light academia-inspired clothes are the fastest-selling commodities right now.
Moreover, Faith expects interest in light academia apparel to grow even further as the summer season is in full bloom.
Light Academia Outfits ideas
If you’re ready to put together an academia-inspired capsule wardrobe (maybe to match it with your aesthetic room decors!), there are some key pieces that you cannot go without.
The foundation of any flawless academic outfit relies on tops – long-sleeved blouses, sweaters, and turtlenecks – which can be found in most vintage clothing stores.
However, layering is the name of the game, particularly when dressing for colder days.
Therefore, if you choose an outfit for sunnier times, swap chunky knits for lighter fabrics to stay comfortable.
There are a few things that feel better on the skin than a soft blend of wool and silk.
Case in point, this sweater – highly suitable for any light academia clothing matches you have in mind.
Nailing that perfect balance of slouchy and refined, this piece is one you’ll reach for day after day.
Suppose you’re looking for something more structured; in that case, you can’t go wrong with a classic shirt from Ralph Lauren.
Worn solo or layered under a sweater with the collar peeking out, it’ll give you that preppy edge you’re after.
Also, The classic shirt goes great with high-waist straight-leg jeans for women.
High Waisted Classic Trousers
After selecting your tops, it’s time to choose the right bottoms, and there are many options to consider.
Whether you’re trousers or a skirt kind of person, you can always channel the light academia aesthetic in your looks by picking out specific cuts and lengths.
Tailoring, both sharp and delicate, is a fail-safe option, but the right choice of denim can turn out to be an equally solid foundation for an Instagram-worthy edit.
Reliable tailored trousers are a cornerstone of every wardrobe, and this high-rise pair from Sandro is sure not to let you down.
When looking to let your feminine side shine, opt for pieces like this pleated Thom Browne skirt that looks to classic school uniforms for inspiration.
Staying cozy and comfortable is not optional in academia-inspired outfits, and I think there’s no better way to ensure you feel that way than by wrapping up in a warm cardigan.
On top of that, considering investing in a couple of go-with-anything blazers – if emblazed with collegiate details like crests or contrasting trims, even better.
Finally, make sure your trusty coat is close at hand when temperatures drop.
A classic pea coat or trench coat will not only ensure you’re warm but also lend that extra dose of cool to your daily pairings.
We love this chunky cardigan from Ted Baker for its silhouette that hits that sweet spot between relaxed and elegant.
Tweed is yet another great fabric that will help you put together a perfectly polished light academia look, and this houndstooth jacket from Chloé makes us wish for the weather to get colder.
Finally, an outfit is never complete without the right pair of shoes. Choosing the matching shoes is key to light academia aesthetic – a style where simplicity and comfort reign supreme.
That’s why you’ll rarely need to put yourself through the hardships that come with wearing high heels.
Some staple styles to consider investing in would be – naturally – Oxford shoes, loafers, combat boots, or Mary Janes.
If comfort and a classic finish are what you want in your look, try these LOEWE Derby shoes – I think they’re a perfect match thanks to their smooth and versatile leather construction.
When looking to add a slightly more girly accent to your outfit, a pair of ballet flats or Mary Janes is our top choice, just like these from Miu Miu.
When it comes to light academia fashion aesthetic, your choice of accessories must be where your personality truly shines.
In this case, this two-piece combo will have your outfit scream light academia from afar: Roller glasses.
With these accessories, you can publicly proclaim your “thirst for knowledge” while carrying your favorite classic books right by your side.
The easiest way to keep us with the European cultures (fashion-wise) is to adopt a minimal and sleek look.
For example, I highly recommend this Jil Sander satchel bag for its versatile and practical design that will easily complement a plethora of modern internet aesthetics.
To lend that essential nerdy edge to your edit, check out these glasses from D.Franklin that effortlessly bridge the gap between modern and retro.
Now It’s Your Turn…
There’s no doubt that the academic-influenced and Tik-Tok popularized fashion trends reveal how the global pandemic has changed the way young people express themselves.
Born in times of uncertainty and isolation and nurtured on social media, these aesthetic trends are taking fashion by storm, worldwide.
And, above all, the light academia style is an uplifting aesthetic that provides the much-needed rebound in the form of lightness and hope.
But if you’re not sure where your loyalties lie, you can balance between the two aesthetics (light and dark) in the path of grey academia, an aesthetic that seamlessly brings together the best of both worlds.