Have your copy of The Secret History at the ready.
If your favorite character was always the fumbling academic in a fantasy or mystery movie, you need to start rocking the dark academic aesthetic. This slightly preppy collegiate yet mysterious style first experienced its big heyday on Tumblr in the early 2010s, and like many of those trends, it’s having a renaissance on TikTok now. As this aesthetic bleeds past cellphone screens into IRL style, you bring together your adoration of scholarly pursuits and fashion to create your own take on dark academia style.
When it comes to the dark academia aesthetic outfits, there are a few main areas in history the look pulls inspiration from. Dark academia centers on a thirst for and romanticization of scholarly pursuits, especially those linked to literature and classical studies. There’s also a touch of upper-class, 20th-century prep. Movies like Dead Poets Society and books like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History tap into both the passion for learning and the brooding nature of a dark academic. Basically, get ready for a lot of plaid.
However, you still need something a little more mysterious to really make this look work. And, when it comes to brooding and mysticism, you don’t have to look for inspiration any further than the Romantic poets and gothic novels in the heart of it. Think Crimson Peak and running through an abandoned castle: This is the part that gives this aesthetic that “dark” title.
The next time you find yourself in (or at least with an urge to visit) a library with only a candle to light your way on a rainy day, you may want to break out the plaid pants, turtleneck, and blazer. Tap into your inner angsty poet and try out these modern dark academia outfit ideas for the next time you curl up with a dusty, old tome.
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This look checks off a lot of dark academia’s boxes. A dark, plaid pantsuit is timeless and will always skew toward this moody aesthetic, but the lacy collar is a nod to all things old, adding a more gothic touch that makes it lost in time. You can even mismatch your plaids for a funky take on the style.
Noting the preppy side of dark academia, you can go down the plaid skirt path. This look doesn’t need much styling, as the skirt will be the focal point. A simple, oversized, white button-down will add to your intellectual ‘fit, while a pair of riding boots make it undeniably boarding school-prep.
A turtleneck is a classic go-to for a cozy intellect. You can make the look very monochromatic by keeping your top and pants in the same color palette. Rather than going with just a plain pair of trousers, plaid pants will add a little excitement — and an easily recognizable dark academia vibe — to the look.
Break out your cable-knit sweater to channel some Chris Evans as Ransom in Knives Out. It doesn’t get much cozier than being wrapped up in a book and a huge sweater. Stepping away from the plaid aesthetics, you can pair the textural top with a suede skirt and tights to keep it soft and easy on the eyes, while still feeling buttoned-up and academic.
Skater and dark academia don’t seem like a possible mix, but you’d be surprised. A pair of wide-legged jeans and an oversized sweater vest create the ideal balance of modern with retro. You can wear a turtleneck, button-down, or even a T-shirt underneath the sweater vest and still look ready to explore an abandoned castle.
Truthfully, you don’t need to go wild with finding multiple new pieces to craft the ultimate dark academia look. A major aspect of this style involves darker layers to brave the cold, as if you were exploring the Hogwarts castle at the start of winter. If that’s the case, a pair of neutral pants and a sweater worn under a long, oversized, plaid trench coat masters the dark academia all the same.