Dark Academia: What Is It and How to Get the Aesthetic

Posted by Allanah Faherty on

What is Dark Academia? The latest aesthetic and subculture to sweep social media has quickly taken over Tumblr, TikTok, Instagram, and almost any other social media platform. 

The Dark Academia aesthetic encompasses a broad scope of things and primarily concerns education, knowledge, and learning. Above all, Dark Academia is a romantic notion of all things academic.

The Dark Academia Aesthetic

Dark Academia is a subculture dedicated to – and in celebration of – knowledge. It’s inspired by dusty libraries filled with lengthy tomes, stirring poetry read aloud from a lectern or atop a desk (Dead Poets Society is a Dark Academia must-watch), and delicate instruments used to make all manner of mathematical or scientific discoveries.

Those who enjoy Dark Academia probably have a lust for learning and a need to further understand the world around them.

The Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin is a Dark Academia dream

The New York Times and i-D have recently written about the Dark Academia aesthetic as more and more people grow obsessed with the phenomenon. It's not hard to see why it appeals to so many people. In a time where it seems like science and knowledge are being treated with disregard more than any other time, Dark Academia embraces education above all.

While you could be mistaken for thinking that Dark Academic romanticizes education only at university or colleges, when you get to know the subculture, you learn that it loves learning in any form. Whether you’re a self-taught scholar or have a degree from Oxford, anyone can embrace Dark Academia.

Lyra in His Dark Material a Dark Academia series

Along with the academic side of Dark Academia, there’s also the aesthetic side, which leans into a traditional academic look with a slightly gothic twist. Woolen cardigans, thick-framed glasses, tweed blazers with patches, leather satchels, and brogues all convey a Dark Academia look. Rooms decorated with candles, parchment paper, sculls, and stacks of books complete the look.

Those interested in Dark Academia may also enjoy aspects of similar variations, including Witchy Academia, Romantic Academia, Light Academia, Darkest Academia, and Scholarly Academia.

How To Get The Dark Academia Aesthetic

No matter if you’re a long-time Dark Academia enthusiast or a new student, there are always more ways to embrace this knowledge-thirsty lifestyle. Here we’ve listed a bunch of ways you can bring more Dark Academia into your life. This list is by no means exhaustive – Dark Academia is a very flexible and inclusive aesthetic, so feel free to interpret the aesthetic in a way that best fits you.

Dark Academia Room

A Dark Academia style room

When setting up your Dark Academia-inspire room, you’ll probably want to focus on ensuring you have a great space to study. A heavy wooden desk fits the aesthetic perfectly, or stack up old, leather-bound books on whatever surface you have. Your bookcase should be bursting with volumes, and it’s best if it covers many areas of interest to broaden your education. Decorate the walls with dark, dramatic artwork to inspire you as you work.

Moody lighting adds to the vibe of Dark Academia, so adding candles is a must. If you can find candle holders or candelabras at local flea markets, these would be perfect. Sculls, busts, old glass bottles and jars, dried flowers and grasses, and other curios are perfect decorations in a Dark Academia room. It would help if you also had a collection of vintage teacups or pots to enjoy a freshly brewed cup.

teacups are a Dark Academia aesthetic accessory

The Dark Academia color palette leans towards more muted tones such as blacks, greys, and browns. Patterns such as houndstooth and materials like leather, wool, and tweed are also crucial to the aesthetic. If it looks like something a student or professor might have worn in the 1930s or 40s, you’re on the right track.

For those looking to do some Dark Academia on a budget, sort through your local second-hand stores for bargains on clothes, books, and decorations. Library book sales are another excellent place to search for volumes. Estate sales can be perfect for finding hidden gems, or simply trawl eBay or Facebook marketplace.


Even though Dark Academia leans a little to the spooky side, plants are still essential to the aesthetic, as it is for its lighter cousin, cottagecore. Plants that grow well in dark spaces fit this subculture perfectly, such as those in the ivy family. Vines are perfect for draping over the side of a bookcase or along a railing. And, if you’re worried about killing a plant, just opt for artificial vine leaves instead!

Dark Academia Fashion

Although Dark Academia is all about knowledge, there’s also a fashion aspect to the aesthetic as well. As mentioned early, Dark Academia fashion is big on muted tones. In addition to that, earthy colors, traditional patterns and materials, as well as layers are all important. The fashion is a sort of mix of an old-school academic, a gothic twist, and some traditional English farmer vibes.

Lucia, who runs a Dark Academia Twitter account, told i-D that Dark Academia fashion sort of hinges on a year-round winter wardrobe.

“Dark academia is all about long coats, tweed, and turtlenecks, which are great choices for a winter look, but you can totally make it work year round, adding some details here and there, like some cool Oxford shoes, a plaid skirt or a nice blazer.”

Dark Academia Aesthetic Outfit Essentials

If you’re looking to dress in outfits in the Dark Academia aesthetic, here are some key pieces to keep an eye out for.

Dark Academia Clothes

Classic Dark Academia looks often involved dark wool coats, tweed blazers, and woolen trousers as staples. Crisp white shirts or flowing blouses are often seen, especially paired with a tie and vest, or perhaps a pussycat bow. Turtlenecks and long skirts are also often worn by Dark Academia fans.

If the weather is a little too warm to don so many layers, linen clothing is a great choice, as are flowing white dresses. 

In terms of accessories, find yourself a great leather (or vegan leather) bag that will fit either books or paper and pens. Jewellry should all be relatively simply, think along the lines of a classic watch, simple rings, and broaches. And of course, you can't forget your glasses, even if you have perfect vision, you can still rock the glasses look. 

Dark Academia Shoes

 Boots, flats, or heels are all good choices for Dark Academia footwear. Generally, black, brown, or grey are great color choices as they seamlessly match and complement your clothing. Brogues, Mary Janes, or Oxfords are popular footwear choices – basically anything you imagine a stereotypical librarian wearing.

Dark Academia Makeup

For those wondering how they should adapt their makeup look to best fit Dark Academia, this is an area that doesn’t take much time to perfect. Dark Academia makeup is all about a fresh-faced look, so if you prefer not to wear makeup, then a bare face is more than OK.

If you’re looking for a routine, try a light foundation to even your skin tone, but don’t worry about covering the dark circles under your eyes – they’re badges of honor after your long hours studying. Add some blush to your cheeks for a healthy flush and fill in your eyebrows (mostly to furrow them later as you study). A swipe of mascara is all you need for eyes. Complete the look with either a nude or dark lip, depending on your taste.

Dark Academia Books, TV and Movies

To really get into the Dark Academia aesthetic, surround yourself with some of the most atmospheric books, TV, and movies that promote the benefits and enjoyment of knowledge and learning. 

Dark Academia Books

The Goldfinch Dark Academia book

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster

Dark Academia Movies


  • Kill Your Darlings
  • Dead Poets Society
  • Phantom Thread
  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • The Riot Club
  • Maurice
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Suspiria
  • Heavenly Creatures
  • Dorian Gray
  • Knives Out
  • The Beguiled

Dark Academia TV

Natalie Dormer in Dark Academia TV series Picnic at Hanging Rock 2018

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • His Dark Materials (BBC)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (2018)
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • The Magicians
  • The Luminaries
  • Penny Dreadful
  • Peaky Blinders
  • The Alienist
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Dark Academia Music

This Dark Academia playlist on Spotify by liv ༄‧₊˚. is a great starting point!


Got a great Dark Academia recommendation? Leave them below, and we’ll add them! 📚


Read more:

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →


  • I’ve been dark academia since I was born, basically, didn’t even know this was a style. Just recently I found about internet aesthetics. (I know, I’ve been living under a rock.) I am more leaning towards literature and poetry than other kinds of knownledge (ugh, math!) I always tought this style was just classic with dark colors, and it’s such a hard style to dress where I live (a tropical country with too much sun for my fair skin!!!) But I can’t help and change my way of dressing. I fell so included know that I know this is a named style, I fell like I belong.

    Bella on
  • This is a well written description of the aesthetic/lifestyle, and I did learn some more book and movie recommendations I will be looking into. I’m going to go thrifting for some more sweaters and pants, as most of my pants are too-small dress pants. I enjoy a lot of older gold jewelry and old keys on necklace chains. I would mention that if you are wearing eye shadow: stick with burgundy, browns, and greens. As for nail polish: beige, nude, black, or a walnut color. That’s all I’ve got to offer, thank you for this article! -Ash

    Ash Pattengale on
  • I love this so much! I’d add The Falling (Carol Morley, 2014) as another great Dark Academia film (and its soundtrack!).

    Jade on
  • Can you do another on Romantic aesthetic or classical aesthetic or all the other aesthetics

    Jessica Fowler on
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt is also one of the main dark academia books.

    -beauty-is-terror- on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.