What exactly is Dark Academia? A Guide about the mysterious Trend

RetroCat in einem karierten Rock und einer klassischen Bluse
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Dark Academia: Nostalgia, melancholy & an aesthetic straight out of a Harry Potter movie

A mysterious atmosphere, time-honored libraries, candlelight and a certain gloom: the Dark Academia trend takes us into the romanticized world of elite universities and Hogwarts. The elitist style has already gone viral in fashion, and now it is also finding its way into interior design. It can also be used as a kind of unofficial genre designation for books in an academic setting.

What is Dark Academia

Dark Academia is an aesthetic trend that originated on social networks. It attempts to revive the romanticized lifestyle and style of English and American private schools and elite universities before the middle of the 20th century. The aesthetic is characterized by nostalgia, melancholy and a certain darkness.

According to stories, the roots of this trend lie in literature. That would be a perfect fit – at least from an aesthetic point of view. In particular, the book “The Secret History” by Donna Tartts, in which a group of college students gradually falls apart due to a shared, dark secret, may have influenced the style. In 2015, a community was founded on Tumblr for this work. From there, the trend is said to have spread to other platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest. Whether the book is really the origin of the Dark Academia trend remains – in keeping with the style – an unsolved secret.

A mysterious aesthetic

But what exactly is the trend? Well, let’s just think of Harry Potter, old libraries, American private schools and elite universities – voila, we see the Dark Academia look before us. Incidentally, the style experienced a real boom, especially at the beginning of the pandemic – just like the cottagecore style. Cottagecore romanticizes country life in particular, but both aesthetics have a few things in common: there is a fair amount of nostalgia and a muted color palette as well as natural materials form the basis of both looks.

I’ll tell you exactly how we can implement this in fashion, interior and lifestyle.

Dark Academia Fashion

Dark Academia in fashion is characterized by a formal dress style inspired by the students of elite universities such as Oxford and Yale in the 1930s and 40s. Outfits in the style of traditional school uniforms, suits, suspenders, shirts and blouses, cardigans, checked skirts, elegant Oxford shoes and – if you want to take it to the extreme – large-framed glasses are therefore very popular. The focus is on muted, earthy colors. Overall, the look is definitely suitable for everyday use and easy to wear.

Checks, classic cuts & muted colors

RetroCat with corduroy skirt and blouse in Dark Academia style

A few keywords that well describe the Dark Academia trend in fashion:

  • Corduroy
  • Natural materials such as high quality leather, cotton, wool and linen
  • Check pattern
  • Muted, earthy tones
  • Classics like blouses and skirts

A few brands and shops that have Dark Academia style fashion in their range:

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Dark Academia Interior

Dark Academia Interior: inspiration for furnishings

If you want to furnish your home in the Dark Academia style, you best think of dusty libraries, elite universities, Hogwarts and mysterious castles. The style is definitely more maximalism than minimalism. The furnishing style is particularly suitable for closed room concepts.

Dark colors and decoration

A dark color palette forms the basis of the trend. Mahogany brown, black and dark green are good choices. If desired, color accents can be set in dark burgundy red or navy blue, for example. Dimmed lights and candlelight fit the Dark Academia style much better than lighting that is too bright.

Old leather armchairs and huge bookshelves are a must. If you don’t have that many books, just go for a book wallpaper (e.g. via Maisons du Monde*).

RetroCat at the desk in the Dark Academia look

In keeping with the name, books are of course an important decorative element. Whether on the previously mentioned bookshelves, on the coffee table or on the windowsill – particularly old-looking, thick books are a perfect accessory for the home. You can find them at flea markets, for example.

Dried flowers, old-fashioned inkwells, typewriters, a chess board and candles in old candlesticks create the right atmosphere and a cozy, mysterious ambience.

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A Lifestyle a la Dark Academia

RetroCat reading an old book in a wing chair

You don’t have to attend an elite university to live the Dark Academia lifestyle. Art and literature play a big role. So we can spend the evenings reading or playing chess, for example. And how about a trip to the museum at the weekend?

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