Fall fashion: Dark academia

Social media has always been a birthplace for various fashion subcultures and has generally been a reliable source of fashion inspiration if you know where to look. Recently, with the help of the trend-creating powerhouse TikTok, the dark academia fashion trend is becoming a force that cannot be ignored.

What is dark academia?

Dark academia was inspired by The Secret History, a novel about a murder within a group of elite students at a prestigious college in New England. It is widely considered to be the origin of modern dark academia literature. Soon enough, this secretive but coveted setting made its way to Tumblr, where it inspired users to write short stories and produce artworks with a similar type of high-academia aesthetic.

What started as a literate setting for fictional intellectuals had soon been transformed into a full-fledged lifestyle and fashion template. To put it in to context, imagine a scenario where you and your friends are having a late-night study session in the Harry Potter room at the Irving K. Barber library. Now, try to mimic that feeling and vibe through the way you dress.

Let me show you how to add ‘I enrolled for Hogwarts but I am settling for the UBC' vibes into your wardrobe.

What is dark academia fashion?

TikTok’s favourite subculture draws inspiration from the art of the Renaissance, Baroque, the Age of Absolutism and more. If dark academia fashion’s muses are from such sophisticated sources, the look needs to represent the story you’re telling. As the name suggests, dark academia fashion contains dark colours, mainly black, dark earthy tones and white, resembling wood and leather.

Your final outfit should be warm to look at; it should make you think of fall but, at the same time, a transfixing sense of coolness. Dark academia usually consists of tweed coats, big scarves, waistcoats, neckties, blazers, dress pants, button-up shirts, Derbies or Oxfords. Yes, it does sound like I am describing private school uniforms or the wardrobe for the Harry Potter series, but trust me, this aesthetic is anything but uniform. These elements are the basic building blocks because this fashion aesthetic is primarily associated with formal attire to reflect its academic element.

Dark academia was inspired by The Secret History.
Dark academia was inspired by The Secret History. Andrew Ha

On top of completing your outfit silhouette, make sure you pattern-coordinate your outfit as well. Since the basis of dark academia fashion is mainly darker colours, there are fewer chances of colour-clashing. However, when the emphasis of the style is based on coats, scarves and suits, we need to pay attention to fabric patterns to accentuate that visual flow. Here are some basic rules to follow:

  • Do not wear tartan plaid all over.
  • Pairing houndstooth and stripes is your safest bet.
  • Bold patterns like Ogee and Trellis are great for scarves.
  • Polka dots neckties can give this aesthetic a fun twist — experiment with it.

The objective is to look sharp, aristocratically intelligent and, of course, high-fashion. Dark academia is preppy; it requires your willingness to work through all the layers. Although complex, it is also entertaining to mix-and-match such a sophisticated style.

A thin line between costume and fashion

Dark academia is a beautiful approach for those who are wanting a more playful formal tone. However, pop-culture inspired and popularized this aesthetic, so it’s important to make sure that we don’t inadvertently turn our outfits into costumes instead of something fashionable. Costumes are worn with a specified context by someone pretending to be something they are not; fashion is a way of self-expression through clothes.

On top of dark academia, there are so many more subcultures that were adopted by fashion aficionados, and I hope to cover each of them in the future. Stay tuned for subculture-inspired pieces!