dark academia fashion; an emerging subculture

Photos by K Bodrock

As humans, we long to find a place of belonging. Finding consistency and comfort in our own lives is a quintessential part of understanding our own humanity. We strive to find our niche role in the world and to fill this place. In the last few years, the rise of aesthetics has helped people find this niche. 

Starting as small subcultures, various aesthetics have begun to gain speed as they make their way onto other social media platforms. Using these aesthetics to inspire one’s fashion, music and lifestyle has been a way that many young people identify with each other and learn more about themselves. One rising aesthetic that is becoming popular is dark academia. 

Perfect for fall, the dark academia style revolves around the pursuit of knowledge, a passion for learning and discovery and a return to the classics. Young people who follow this aesthetic have renewed a love for classical music and literature, art and vintage pieces. As shopping secondhand becomes increasingly prominent in the fashion world, this subculture encourages an appreciation of things from the past. Although dark academia has been a fairly well-known concept on Tumblr for years, it has recently made its way to TikTok, increasing its popularity in the last few months. 

The fashion of dark academia is heavily influenced by 1930s and 1940s professional wear and many associate the style with that worn by students of Ivy League schools or other prep schools during this time period. Clothing pieces to look out for include cardigans, blazers, oxford shoes, turtlenecks, vintage jewelry and dress pants, and shirts. Popular patterns and materials associated with this trend include plaid, houndstooth print, tweed, and wool. The general color palette is neutrals and darker, muted tones. 

The look also has been praised for its gender-neutral approach to fashion. Androgynous designs and silhouettes have been an important part of dark academia, as much of the inspiration comes from vintage menswear. Additionally, the aesthetic is very inexpensive to replicate. Due to its vintage inspiration, it’s easy to create looks with thrifted items.  

So where did this style come from? Dark academia has emerged as a renaissance as our society reflects on the past for inspiration. Ancient philosophy and classical literature have become more relevant to Gen Z as they look to the past when the future is so uncertain. The dark undertones reflect our current world, but the emphasis on art and creativity breathes life into the mystery of this world. In order to find comfort and joy, we begin to romanticize our own lives by placing ourselves within a narrative. Using aesthetics to do this, we almost become characters in a larger story, allowing ourselves to feel less isolated in the COVID-19 era. 

Governing one’s life through aesthetics may seem like a confining idea, but finding a category to fall into allows for the growth of personal style and easier engagement with others who have similar interests. By discovering your aesthetic, you have access to literature, music and fashion suggestions that all evoke the same mood. This consistency is comforting and results in self-discovery for many. 

As autumn approaches, be on the lookout for fashion ensembles inspired by dark academia. For more inspiration, check out the Pinterest board linked here

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Hi, I’m Maria McGinnis, a senior journalism student from Stow, Ohio. I’m also the editor in chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.

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