Categories: Fashion

Dark Academia: Embracing The Aesthetic

Dead Poets Society

Are you a lover of literature? Of the arts? Of history? Is the layered look and warm coats of Autumn your favorite fashion? Do you want to travel the world to see the great monuments and experience other cultures? Have you dreamed of walking the halls of Oxford or finding rare editions at antique bookstores? Then you, my friend, may find yourself at home in the Dark Academia aesthetic.

“Dark Academia is an aesthetic that revolves around classic literature, the pursuit of self-discovery, and a general passion for knowledge and learning. It is one of several variations, each with a unique historical focus. Dark Academia’s best-know visual variations stem primarily from European cultures.”

There is nothing wrong with being able to describe your style with a word or two. In fact, it can be quite exciting and liberating to figure out exactly what you are into and how to expand your world to your liking. Self-discovery and self-expression are one of the best things about this aesthetic… instead of wandering around bookshops, scrolling through Netflix, and searching through Instagram, you now know a fantastic jumping-off point to find things you will love. So, here are 5 ways to embrace the aesthetic:


1. The Aesthetic

Dark defined: categorized by tragedy, mystery, and the human condition.

Academia defined: the environment or community concerned with the pursuit of research, education, and scholarship.

The key motifs are reading and writing, literature, history, European architecture, classical music, and the timeless fashion of the well-educated.

The key values are curiosity, intelligence, wisdom, and existentialism.

Often, trips to museums to see your favorite Van Gogh or the theater to see Shakespeare are favorable over parties and barhopping and your common wardrobe seems like you are “dressing up”. In this community, you will be with like-minded people that can spend hours upon hours talking about literature, cinema, art, philosophy, etcetera. Then, your introverted battery can be refilled when you go back to your happy place; your home that is filled with books, antique cameras, plants, a collection of tea in the kitchen, and your cat on the couch.


2. Literature

Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History, published in 1992, has been credited with creating the dark academic literary genre. The Secret History tells the story of a murder that takes place within a group of classics students at a New England college.

Though I could list dozens of other novel titles, I will try and keep it short:

Pride And Prejudice, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, The Divine Comedy, The Great Gatsby, Memoirs Of A Geisha, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, The Iliad, the Harry Potter series, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Dracula, and The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

Novels that not only have a dynamic story but stories that address what it means to be human.


3. Films

The film Kill Your Darlings, released in 2013, portrays the prominent writers of the Beat Generation during their time at Columbia University. Kill Your Darlings’ setting, as well as a plot involving a murder within a literary community, is complementary with the dark academia aesthetic. The film drew recognition for its darkly poetic visuals and vivid rendering of the 1940s academia.

Though I could list dozens of other films, I will try and keep it short:
Dead Poets Society, Little Women, Good Will Hunting, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Black Swan, The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, The Theory Of Everything, The Prestige, Victor Frankenstein, Tolkien, Knives Out, and The Goldfinch.

Films that not only have layered characters but curious plots that make you think.


4. Music and Podcasts

Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, and Tchaikovsky… these are just well-loved, household names but also perfect for this aesthetic.

See Also

But, if you are interested in more modern options and podcasts, here is the shortlist:

Queen, Coldplay, Panic! At The Disco, The Brobecks, The Young Veins, Lorde, Mumford & Sons, Lola Blanc, Propaganda, Swing Out Sister, White Town, Suzanne Vega, and Poor Mans Poison. (There are many playlists on YouTube and Spotify to help with this, too.) Then, Welcome To Nighvale, Unwell A Midwestern Gothic Mystery, The Penumbra Podcast, The Mangus Archives, and the Wayward Guide For The Untrained Eye.

One can learn and be inspired by what they hear just as much as what they would read.


5. Fashion

Professor or student, can you tell the difference? Dark Academia fashion is the iconic look of the hardcore university students of The United Kingdom and American prep-schools between the early 1940’s and late 1950’s.

Though the main colors are Earth tones of cream, brown, black, and gray, there are often pops of color with burgundy, burnt orange, emerald, and navy.

Inspired by school uniforms and scholarly professionals, turtlenecks are often matched with plaid skirts, button-up blouses with high-waisted slacks, and shirt dresses with dark tights. Usual fabric choices are more upscale, like cashmere, wool, and tweed, but linen and cotton are also very common. Thick peacoats and Oxford boots are common for outerwear, with complimentary leather gloves and wool scarves. Accessories are usually minimal, like thin bangles, simple rings, a small pendant on a light chain, and classic watches.

Perfect outfits for writing poetry on a train, drawing portraits in a coffee shop, finding a vintage bookshop to duck into while it is raining, but most important, outfits sophisticated and comfortable enough that you feel like you rule the university halls you walk through.


Student For Life

Though there are a few variations you might flirt with here and there – like Light Academia, Romantic Academia, and Writer Academia – Dark Academia is the aesthetic that umbrellas your life. Now, you can go forward knowing exactly how to describe yourself and where you belong. Now, you can also go forward and be inspired by new literature and films, music, and art that fit your interest. Now, you know exactly what to tell people when they ask for a holiday wish list. Comment below any other wonderfully Dark Academia items I may have missed!
Molly Lynn Robinson

Author | English Major | #RealLifeBelle | Academic Romance | "This was no accident, this was a therapeutic chain of events." |

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