Fashion

This Is Why Dark Academia Fashion Is Booming In 2020 (+ 30 Amazing Styles)

Katherine Saxon
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Dark Academia has become one of the trendiest fashion topics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Right now, there are over 150,000 #darkacademia posts on Instagram and a million posts on Tumblr.

The topic is growing fast on Reddit as well.

However, the most significant wave of interest comes from the TikTok generation, with almost 20 million views to date.

But what is Dark Academia and why is it booming right now? Here is everything you need to know!

In this article:

What Is Dark Academia?

Dark academia aesthetics

A common Dark Academia look: white shirt, thin necklace, round simple watch, basic makeup, holding a book.

Dark academia refers to a new aesthetic style that draws inspiration from the classic Greek arts, writing, architecture, deeply infused with Gothic elements and concepts of death.

Dark academia fashion style is designed to reflect a subculture that emphasises on education, learning, reading, writing, and hence the ‘academic’ touch.

Dark Academia definition

However, what makes the dark academia fashion look so distinct from the classic academic fashion style is the ‘dark’, gothic aesthetic influence.

To best picture the ‘dark academia fashion’, imagine someone wearing a pair of vintage tweed pants.

Add to that image a slubby thick yarn cardigan and a worn satchel, packed with academic papers and books.

Dark academia fashion

A simple Dark Academia vintage look.

The DA style is filled with nostalgia vibes.

The Dark Academia subculture revives the 19th century of private English boarding schools and Ivy League colleges in New England.

The Dark Academia Aesthetic

Dark academia aesthetics

Dark Academia style for spring/summer.

Right now, the Dark Academia aesthetic draws a lot from the Greek culture and arts, but also from the Harry Potter films.

Popular with the teenagers posting on social media, the Harry Potter series made wool sweaters, rich textures cardigans and chocolate brown pants, fashionable again.

Dark academia aesthetics

Vintage Dark Academia outfit: wool sweaters, brown trousers, and check coat.

To fashion critics, the Dark Academia aesthetic is similar to the classic preppy style.

Preppy became famous for its chinos, argyle and crewneck sweaters.

Also, for its grosgrain and woven leather belts, madras, and button-down Oxford cloth shirts.

Preppy fashion style

Classic preppy style – seen as the source of inspiration for the current DA style.

In that sense, the Dark Academia aesthetic is very similar.

Yet, it is more Autumn-Esque, with duller and darker colour palettes.

Why Is Dark Academia Fashion Booming Now?

Dark academia fashion style in black and brown

Dark Academia spring outfit comprising of a brown check blazer and a white top, paired with boots, dress and bag, all black.

This spring saw schools from all over the world come to a halt.

There aren’t any more classes or studies abroad.

There are no more graduations, proms or fashion show-offs.

Dark academia on social media

A Dark Academia student look, based on wool check trousers, white shirt, and a dark oversized dark blue sweater.

Moreover, what’s going to happen in September remains somehow unknown.

However, teenagers missing school – because of the Coronavirus lockdown –  have chosen a style that keeps them somehow connected.

True, the concept of Dark Academia fashion precedes the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it was during the lockdown, when the 14 to 24 years old have started to flood social media platforms with school-like outfits.

Dark academia on Tumblr

Tumblr searches for #darkacademia show a massive interest in the new style.

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 subculture is most popular amongst three groups in particular:

1. Students

The idea behind any Dark Academia style is to construct a look that’s reflecting and accentuating your ‘cultural self’.

Rocking this style does not require you to have a countryside mansion with a big kitchen for baking and a field of flowers.

Dark academia students

Laura Piszczatowska in her Dark Academia vintage look.

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.

2. Gender-free

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’.

@morrisseysPpl will ask me the name of my aesthetic and dark academia is the closest description♬ original sound – morrisseys

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,” said Dilara

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,” she completes.

The success of the style with the LGBTQ+ community is, in part, credited to books and films that feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Dark Academia Books

Left to right: ‘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. “

 

View this post on Instagram

 

happy imbolc ! any plans for the day?

A post shared by dec (@declansdumb) on

“Even though it’s about classics and styles, Dark Academia is a very open community,” said Lucien K, 21, who posts Dark Academia TikToks of himself reading books and doing makeup to the tune of Vivaldi. “It’s also about breaking stereotypes regardless of gender or sexuality.”

@_jpgodMy morning coffee ##darkacademia ##daekacademiaaesthetic♬ original sound – meaganexline

3. Plus size

To date, the Dark Academia subculture has shown the same openness towards the 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, it still remains difficult to find suitable dark academia outfits for plus size.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This outfit gives me serious archeological vibes ~ If you had a possibility of time travelling, when and where would you like to be?

A post shared by | (@juliae.piaskowska) on

Just like Helen, I am also falling into this category.

In the past, I’ve tried to find complete Dark Academia outfits.

It was sooooo hard. In fact, my struggle to find suitable garments is one of the main reasons I am writing and sharing this article with you.

In time I’ve discovered that it is much easier to buy individual pieces rather than whole outfits.

Moreover, I love the process of creating my special looks as I put the parts together, one by one.

Dark academia plus size shopping

A Dark Academia oversized capsule wardrobe.

Here are some of the best places to shop Dark Academia plus size :

  1. Thrift shops -The best places to shop Dark Academia Plus size are the vintage and thrift shops! There you’ll find unique garments for a good price. Above all, right now this is the most sustainable way of shopping.
  2. Cato – this is one of my favourite 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.
  3. Everlane – this is my other favourite, particularly for blazers. More expensive than Cato, but the quality (and sustainability) is great.
  4. Torrid –  for their excellent corduroy creations and pants.
  5. H&M+ for some rare gothic pieces.
  6. Target – In particular their Ava + Viv line.

Dark Academia Summer Looks

Dark Academia summer outfit

Dark Academia showing a black outfit with a tweed skirt.

Given their apparent heavy and Gothic constructs, the Dark Academia fashion styles are not that suitable for countries with long summers and hot weather all year round.

However, Dark Academia styles are great for cities with a colder climate.

Dark academia summer outfit

Dark Academia spring/summer look with check blazer and a white T-shirt.

Nevertheless, some of you insist on wearing this style in the summer as well.

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 fibres absorb moisture fast.

Especially if you sweat a lot, these organic fabrics will let your body ventilate with ease.

From all-natural fibres, these are the top 4 you should wear:

  • Linen – it offers excellent ventilation and it is much better for the environment as well.
  • Organic cotton – it is a light material that’s also easy to wear. Moreover, organic cotton has minimal impact on the environment.
  • Silk – There’s something magical about vintage silk. It is light, cool, easy to wear. Preferably, if you buy new garments, go for cruelty-free silk.
  • Wool – Apart from being very suitable in the colder days of winter, wool is an excellent alternative to cotton, in the summer as well, thanks to its increased breathable capability.

Most Popular Dark Academia Styles Right Now

Dark academia fashion style

Ralph Lauren Pre-Fall 2019 Collection.

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. For that, try to complement the leather-bound books, handwritten notes, and rolled maps coming out of your handbag.
  • Third, each popular Dark Academia style relies on some of the staples I enumerate below.

Blouses & Tops

Choose blouses that have cuffed sleeves – it helps to create that extra touch of British heritage.

You should also choose blouses with large bell sleeves, to achieve that unique academic look.

For a more sophisticated Dark Academia look, go for tops that you can button up.

I personally wear a lot of versatile wrap tops made of silk.

Not only silk is 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, if you live in a hot country, long skirts are preferable to trousers.

Why? Because skirts protect your legs from the sun while allowing ventilation at the same time.

However, if you decide to wear trousers, remember that wool-blends and corduroy materials are best for this style.

I also wear trousers and I often cut them at the ankle height for an extra bit of 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.

Outerwear

Dark Academia blazers, jackets and coats

Left to right: Everlane ‘The Oversized’ blazer. Ovna Ovich ‘Eleanor’ wool blazer.

Remember the glorified tweed blazer of the 50s?

The tweed blazer is by far the best outerwear for the Dark Academia look.

Just make sure you put it over your shoulders, without the sleeves on.

Shoes

When it comes to which shoes are best for the Dark Academia look, the opinions are split.

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.

Personally, I prefer boots as it allows me to emphasise on the Gothic look that I love so much.

Yet, regardless of what shoes you choose, make sure you do not wear flip flops with the Dark Academia style.

Seriously now, don’t ever do that!

Now it’s your turn…

What is your favourite Dark Academia fashion style?

What do you recommend for Dark Academia summer outfits?

What is the biggest problem you’ve faced when going for this style?

Is there any other style you would like us to cover?

Would love to hear your thought and comments below!

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  1. Most of the outfits in these pictures are just preppy or office lady or just too mainstream, lol