The Dark Academia Aesthetic: Outfits & Style Guide

Last updated: January 7, 2022

The Dark Academia Aesthetic is a mysterious, alluring style that has been around for centuries, but has recently been popularized by mass media. Its name may seem like the style is for those in higher education, but the Dark Academia Aesthetic goes beyond books, pencils, and classrooms. The look is inspired by the Gothic 19th century style of dark colors and high collars, but with a modern, refined twist.

This aesthetic is best explained as history professor meets high fashion. The history professor element comes in the form of soft knits, earthy tones, and maybe some wire glasses or a leather accessory. It’s a vintage feel. However, not only should your Dark Academia aesthetic resemble a witty professor, but also a high-society individual.

Besides the brooding academic, the look is also inspired by upper-class secret societies, and this is where the high fashion element comes into play: long coats, dress shoes, tasteful knits. The Dark Academia Aesthetic is one that emits mystery, sophistication, and knowledge. However, you don’t have to be fluent in Latin or curious about Greek philosophy in order to correctly rock the look.

Here are some staple pieces you should have in your closet in order to embody the Dark Academia Aesthetic.

Dark Academia Clothing Pieces

Outerwear

Asket

For outerwear, long, dark coats are a must. These come in a variety of styles. A classic choice is the trench coat, which gives an air of mystery while keeping your outfit sophisticated. Another favorite is the tweed car coat, which is a slightly shorter, more structured garment.

Additionally, there’s the peacoat, duffle, or Chesterfield style. Any of these will help you put the final touch on your Dark Academia look. When deciding on color and material, dark colors are a necessity, especially for outwear. Black, dark gray, or even a rich brown are suitable options.

Stick to refined materials like wool or even a cashmere-wool blend. Stay away from outerwear with any kind of decorations or frills — remember that air of mystery. Usually, a subtle line of buttons is best, although a hidden zipper is another solid choice. Don’t be afraid to flip up your collar as you bundle up.

Jackets

Margaret Howell

Underneath your choice of outerwear, a classy jacket is always a necessity. Think back to the history professor element: tweed, corduroy, or flannel suit jackets are a great addition to your outfit. When looking for a jacket, this is the perfect place to give your outfit some texture by utilizing a variety of materials.

You could even go the extra mile and look for a jacket with a subtle yet interesting pattern. For this aesthetic, plaid is the best choice of pattern, provided that it sticks to the color scheme and doesn’t stick out from the rest of the outfit. A brown plaid tweed jacket goes a long way, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Just like other clothing pieces in this aesthetic, your jackets should be in the form of dark neutrals. However, don’t stress if your jacket has some shinier buttons or a stripe of maroon — this adds depth and purpose to a look that should emit both of those things. Whether you decide to button up your jacket or leave it open is up to you.

Knit

S.N.S. Herning

The Dark Academia Aesthetic will have you ready for the cold with another layer on top: knits. There are a variety of options you can choose when searching for the right sweater. There’s the cable knit sweater, which gives some texture to your look without being an overwhelming item.

Or you could opt for a cashmere sweater, which impresses any onlookers with its high-quality fabric and feel. Even further, there’s the foxhole sweater, which is another way to incorporate a tasteful pattern into your look. There’s also the classic varsity sweater, which gives an old-school feel.

Many knits under the Dark Academia Aesthetic have a turtleneck as well. When choosing a sweater, make sure to keep in mind your jacket of choice so there aren’t any clashing patterns or colors. This innermost layer has a bit more flexibility in color — you could choose a lighter brown or gray, and some even include hints of white in patterns or stripes.

Bottoms

ISTO

Bottoms are where you keep it a bit simpler. Sticking to classic slacks, pleated cords, or flannel trousers keeps you looking consistent and sophisticated. Make sure to coordinate the color of your bottoms to the tones you choose for your upper layers.

For example, if you have that brown plaid jacket with a dark earth-brown cable knit, it’s best to choose bottoms with a similar brown tone. If you’re looking to go the extra mile in terms of your choice of bottoms, an easy yet polished option is to purchase a suit set, keeping your jacket and pants coordinated.

It’s important to keep your slacks ironed and crisp, and it’s especially important that they fit well — baggy pants or skinny jeans have no place in the Dark Academia Aesthetic.

Footwear

Lennertson

Footwear should absolutely not be overlooked in this aesthetic. What shoes you wear have a drastic effect on your look. You should opt for shoes made of leather, which come in many forms. There are Chelsea boots, which are pointier in the toe and come higher up on the ankle.

Another good option are the simpler ankle boots, which also come up to the ankle but have laces. Both have a very slight heel. Beyond those boots, there are also penny loafers or Darby shoes, which are a bit more subtle than boots. As usual, your choice of footwear should be dark leather, either brown or black.

You have some freedom in whether you go for leather that has more of a weathered, worn-in look, or a newer, shiny style. Always remember to give your shoes a good shine before you leave the house, and your look will be complete.