These romantic countryside vibes persisted into summer 2021, with variations and spin-offs like fairycore and princess come. But as the season comes to a close, we see a rise in a more fall-themed aesthetic: dark academia.
Dark academia refers to a subculture that focuses on reading and learning and draws visual inspiration from European higher education, American prep schools, Greek and Gothic architecture, and more.
The genre took hold on TikTok originally in 2020 and has seen a massive rise in Google search interest over the past year and a half. Now, dark academia seems poised for an explosion in the world of fashion this fall.
From a style perspective, it’s all about garments like tweed jackets, plaid skirts, button-down shirts, turtlenecks, and cable-knit sweaters in colors like brown, forest green, dark orange, burgundy, gold, and black. And of course, you can’t forget footwear like Dr. Martens, loafers, and Chelsea boots.
Its emphasis on layers and overall back-to-school vibe make dark academia the perfect fall aesthetic. Devotees draw inspiration from films set at educational institutions like “Dead Poets Society” and “Mona Lisa Smile.” The fashions and locations in the new Netflix series “The Chair” also peak dark academia.
(And, of course, the counterpart of dark academia is light academia, which includes many of the same style components, but tends to involve sunnier backdrops.)
It’s important to note that dark academia is not limited to school settings; it’s just inspired by them. After all, “Knives Out” and “Phantom Thread” embody dark academia without literal academia. The former is set at a house in Massachusetts and carries the WASP-y New England look and spirit, while the latter takes place in dreary old England.
Indeed, there is a British sensibility to dark academia, which is perhaps why one famous U.K. family seems to sport this aesthetic quite frequently: the House of Windsor.
British royals like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Earl and Countess of Wessex are often photographed in tailored trousers, plaid coat dresses, and ample wool and tweed.
The subculture of dark academia has faced criticism for inherently promoting Western colonial education and the supremacy of classical literature.
“I emphasize that dark academia’s aesthetic is not the problem, but its ideology is — the English literary canon is glorified as the master narrative,” Disha Garg wrote for The McGill Daily.
So those who wish to partake in this trend should do so with a critical eye and intend to center education beyond the traditional Eurocentric approach. Still, as Garg noted, this speaks more to the broader subculture than the aesthetic.
If you’re yearning to wear some vintage prep school chic and find a dimly lit room to sit among antique books on wooden shelves, you have many options ― at least on the sartorial front. We’ve rounded up pieces to fit seamlessly into your style vision for dark academia fall. HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Prices and availability are subject to change.