If you wonder what is dark academia, well, you aren’t the only one. It is the rising trend of today, and it is nowhere near fading.
“It’s 1930. An elite school, a web of mysteries, a secret society, and a few intellectuals fighting covertly against the oppression by the privileged.” Isn’t there something darkly satisfying about it?
Not just fiction or nonfiction book lovers, but everyone is loving this new subculture – from social media influencers to social critics.
Let us dive deeper into the trend – its aesthetics, fashion, lifestyle, movies, books, social media trends, criticisms, and future.
What is Dark Academia?
The beauty of dark academia is that there is no perfect definition for it. However, it involves two things – an academic setting and a dark twist.
To further understand the term, you may delve through the following points:
- As an aesthetic, it involves classic paintings, shadowy colors, Greek and Gothic architecture, reading and writing, museums, libraries, and even calligraphy.
- The subculture aspect of it includes ancient art, classical literature, controversial history, and liberal art topics.
- The period of dark academia is in the past – usually before the Civil Rights Movement when school uniforms were part of education.
- It generally glorifies the part where the privileged upper-class society encourages strong liberal ideas and education. Even when the most popular high school books of this time supported racism, sexism, and oppression.
The popularity of the dark academia style grew significantly during the COVID pandemic when teenagers were trying to compensate for their lost college experience by engaging with fiction. Products like Kindle Unlimited played a big role in popularizing such fiction among this generation.
It is also a growing trend among those who fantasize about highly liberal ideas, the pursuit of knowledge, and a college/school where education is affordable.
Origins and Inspiration
The very first work of dark academia was a 1992 novel – The Secret History by Donna Tart. However, the term was first introduced on Tumblr in 2015.
Since then, it has been popularized as an aesthetic, subculture, and genre through social media, blogs, and videos.
You may further understand the meaning of dark academia through its common themes or tropes. Below is a list of the most emergent themes in this art form.
What Dark Academia is Not?
It is also important to understand everything that is not included in the dark academia domain. Let’s look at some of the aspects.
- This domain is not about modern education and its various aspects. It was a time far away from having AI for students.
- It is not about light academia – meaning it does not focus on themes of joy or beauty of life.
- The field does not look at less popular institutions – it only focuses on well-established elitist institutions.
- It is not about any other theme that does not relate to academics.
After understanding dark academia, let us move to some important aspects of this trend.
Dark Academia Aesthetics
The aesthetics of dark academia depict highly elegant maximalism, history, formal Gothic architecture, and European culture. Let us look at its prime elements.
- When it comes to the color palette, earthy tones are used with a certain shadow of darkness.
- The ceilings and walls are covered with multiple layers, textures, wallpapers, panels, and molds.
- The oil paintings, sketches with gloomy colors, and historical portraits form a major part of the gallery walls.
- Dark and heavy-looking antique furniture is used.
- Other decorative items that are generally used are – trophies, quills, magnifying glasses, vintage books, dried flowers, antique mirrors, mercury glass, hand-written letters, and globes.
- Windows are partially opaque and embellished.
Therefore, the dark academia definition could be understood in terms of the major elements of its aesthetics and design aspects.
Dark Academia Fashion and Outfits
For this trend, the fashion style and outfits represent the academic elegance of the time between the 1930s and 1950s.
Let us look at dark academia clothes and styles in detail.
- Fashion style is somewhat of a mixture of preppy, retro, and vintage.
- The colors used are mostly shades of brown, gray, black, and beige.
- Clothing material is generally of high quality, including natural materials like tweed, and leather.
- The patterns are generally classic, especially checks, which are preferred.
- Popular clothes could be trousers, oversized jackets, trench coats, tweed trousers, maxi skirts, knitted waistcoats, knee-high socks, and duffles.
- The shoes are generally Chelsea boots, brogues, or loafers made of high-quality leather.
- The other accessories might include watches, cufflinks, ties, umbrellas, embroidered patches, brooches, belt buckles, and glasses.
Thus, if you are a dark academic fan, you may combine any of the above outfits to give yourself that classy look.
Dark Acadamia Lifestyle
The lifestyle that is adopted in line with the dark academy involves specific activities and hobbies. Die-hard fans of this trend can adopt these activities and become a part of the subculture.
Some of the activities that form part of this lifestyle might include:
- Gaining Knowledge of history, mythology, philosophy, art, classical literature, and foreign languages. If you have a good average reading speed, this hobby could even help you achieve your educational goals.
- Becoming a member of a secret club.
- Listening to classical music on Vinyl.
- Visiting the library and cafés often.
- Boasting about a higher economic background.
- Visiting the history and art museums.
- Reciting and sharing audible books on several poetries and plays.
- Painting or writing in a journal.
Therefore, if you are a fan, you may adopt a combination of the above activities to be a part of this trend.
Best Dark Academia Movies and TV Series
There’s no better way to live a dark academic style than by watching a movie or TV series representing this trend.
Let’s look at the 10 most popular movies that are part of this trend.
- Dead Poet’s Society (1989): Dead Poet’s Society is an Oscar-nominated movie about a secret group of students who are led by their poetry teacher to rebel against the conservatism of their boarding school.
- Harry Potter Film Series (2001-2011): In this popular film series, Harry Potter joins the wizards’ school, where he finds the deepest secrets, darkest magics, grand halls, libraries, closest friends, and a villain more powerful than anyone else.
- Black Swan (2010): Nina, a ballerina in a dance academy, starts to find the darker side of herself when she’s pitted against another dancer for the role of white swan.
- The Goldfinch (2019): This movie is about Decker, whose mother is killed in a museum. During his pain, the painting Goldfinch served as a symbol of hope and relief.
- Mona Lisa Smile (2003): Watson joins a college as an art history teacher. She inspires her female students to challenge conservative norms and stand up for themselves.
- School Ties (1992): A Jewish boy joins an elite school through his football scholarship in the 1950s. When his real identity is revealed in the school, his worst fears come to become the truth.
- Cruel Intentions (1999): This movie is about the game of seduction and thrills when Kathryn challenges her stepbrother to seduce his headmaster’s daughter.
- Another Country (1984): The film is based on the openly gay boy, Guy Bennett, in the 1930s, in an elite British school. Due to the highly conservative ideals of his school and his fellow classmates, Bennett gets pushed toward Russian communist ideas.
- The Dreamers (2003): It is an erotic drama movie about a twin brother and sister who invite Mathew to live with them. Together, they seek to rebel against society’s ideas of sex and incest in a chaotic city.
- Maurice (1987): Maurice is an intense homosexual romantic drama movie set against the backdrop of Cambridge.
Further, you may find the five most popular TV series that represent the dark acedemia trend.
- Wednesday (2022-): This series on Netflix revolves around Wednesday Addams who seeks to take the help of a magic academy to control her psychic abilities and use them to solve mysteries and prevent murders.
- The Magicians (2015-2020): The Magicians revolve around Quentin who enters the magical world, and seeks to fight against an all-powerful villain to save the world.
- House of Anubis (2011-2023): This series is set in an English boarding school where a group of friends seeks to unravel the mystery of Joy’s disappearance, finding a web of mysteries in the process.
- A Discovery Of Witches (2018-2022): A witch and a vampire seek to decipher certain texts at the Oxford Bodleian Library, and protect it from the evil forces in the world.
- Gilmore Girls (2000-2007): The Gilmore Girls follow the story of the ambition of a mother and a daughter. The mother desperately wants to buy her own inn, while the daughter seeks to get admitted to Harvard.
Hence, if you are a fan of this trend, just switch off those lights, put out that remote, and binge-watch your favorite series or movies on a Friday night.
Best Dark Academia Books
Several books relate to the dark academic trend and can be binge-read by you. To have more fun, you may even annotate a book with a Gothic writing style.
Let’s have a look at the 10 most popular Dark Academia Books.
- The Secret History: This book by Donna Tartt revolves around a group of intellectually misfit students, who under the leadership of a classics professor explore the human constructs of morality.
- If We Were Villains: The novel speaks of a group of theater students in an elite university, struggling for the coveted power, leading to murders and a web of mysteries.
- Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution: Babel is set in 1830s England in Oxford. The story speaks of four students who must face British oppression and hegemony.
- Ninth House: This book is based on the secret societies running at Yale University which perform occult magic to gain wealth and power.
- Bunny: Bunny by Mona Awad revolves around a scholarship student, rich mean girls, and magical realism to weave the fantastical drama of a prep school.
- Plain Bad Heroines: A sapphic-gothic-comedy novel with an LGBT theme, it focuses on the disappearance of two young girls. You can easily listen to it from our list of the best audiobook subscription services.
- The Starless Sea: A graduate student in Vermont finds a mysterious book that leads him to secret societies, magical books, and libraries.
- The Maidens: Set in Cambridge, this novel is a murder investigation story, with a group therapist Mariana Andros as the prime investigator.
- Ace of Spades: A social commentary novel on racism and queerness; it talks about two students struggling against an anonymous bully.
- Black Chalk: This novel speaks about six students of Oxford who become a part of a mysterious game society, entering into the dangerous game of dare and consequences.
If you are a hardcore fan of this trend, such books would even be cathartic and function as a personal training book for your mind.
Dark Academia and Social Media
The dark academia casual look and architecture have been widely popularized recently on TikTok and Instagram.
If you are a follower of this trend and want to become an influencer, you may use a variety of ways to gain followers on different social media platforms.
- Post images of you wearing different styles of clothes of that era.
- Make reels on the traditional buildings of the Gothic era.
- Post images of handwritten notes and manuscripts.
- Use classical tunes in your videos.
- Post reviews of dark acedamia movies and books. You may even get paid to read books.
You may even find your own niche in a specific genre of this trend.
Critique of Dark Academic
Any new trend or subculture is not free from criticism and drawbacks. Let us look at the few most talked about criticisms of this subculture.
- Largely White and Eurocentric.
- Most of such literature generally ends up up upholding the harmful systems of oppression.
- Too much obsession with pain and darkness.
- Racist, sexist, and homophobic content and text features.
Wondering about the future of this subculture? Let’s proceed to the next section to find out.
Future of Dark Academia
There is a certain importance of dark academia art as a culture in a society.
This trend sheds light on one of the most oppressive phases of the educational system and, in doing so, seeks to prevent its repetition in the present. Due to the social significance of this trend, it is likely to gain even greater popularity among egalitarians.
Further, the popularity is set to rise to an even greater extent among college students. These students use this subculture to escape from the current times where education is infested with bad loans and anxiety about a stable career.
To Sum it Up
Dark academia as a subculture is gaining wide popularity among the newer generations. The meaning of this trend is – a form of art that depicts an academic setting with a dark twist.
If you are a hardcore follower of this subculture, you may adopt its lifestyle, wear vintage outfits, admire aesthetics, watch related movies, read books, or even become a dark academic influencer on social media platforms.
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Ans: Dark academia focuses on the darker themes of oppression and racism. On the other hand, light academia focuses on the beauty of life and love.
Ans: Dark academia is still cleaner literature that respectfully approaches the themes of social issues. Chaotic academia does the same but with messy notes, banned content, and a much stronger approach to its content.
Ans: Dark green academia approaches the themes of plants, biology, and earth sciences while simultaneously depicting a commentary on social criticism in an academic setting.
Ans: The goth academia incorporates Gothic art and sciences in a literary manner to amuse its consumers.
Ans: Horror academia focuses on a setting depicting an extensive quantity of knowledge related to academics and research. It generally ends up overwhelming its followers.