At a moment in time when students weren’t able to go to school, offices were closed and many of us stuck to our sweatpants and leggings, one particular internet subculture started developing into a full-fledged fashion trend: dark academia. Ahead, we break down dark academia fashion and ask fashion experts about their favorite ways to style and wear the trend.
What is dark academia?
Dark academia is a broader subculture that has taken off specifically on TikTok, with the primary #darkacademia hashtag racking up over one billion views and the #darkacademiaoutfits hashtag being used over 26 million times. If you’re not familiar with commonly associated imagery, think Gothic architecture, candlelit libraries, and dark film photos placed next to handwritten poetry on a vintage table. The dark academia fashion trend pulls directly from this aesthetic, both of which reference everything from Harry Potter to Hellenistic period art, explains stylist Rebecca Dennett.
Dennett describes the trend as both “deeply gothic and preppy,” with an emphasis on duller and darker color palettes. Stylist Sarah Slutsky agrees, adding that the style can be described as a “marriage of prep school uniforms, androgyny and also traditional professionalism skewed romantic.” TikTok influencer and content creator Dana Hasson notes that the trend combines older fashion inspirations and modern styling for a chic and elegant look. A key element to dark academia is vintage clothing and thrift store dressing, explains Dennett, which makes it “more affordable and accessible for the younger generation who have started this trend.”
However, this doesn’t mean the trend has to look young — experts explain its popularity can also be attributed to how versatile and inclusive it is.
“I think after so much time working from home and not needing to get dressed, it’s natural to see a return to traditional office attire as a romantic ideal,” explains Slutsky. “It feels a bit like the ultimate ‘going back to work’ with a poetic twist.”
Hasson adds that she believes dark academia style is so popular right now because it’s effortless, yet the end result still looks chic. “It’s for everyone, and is a really timeless way of dressing,” she explains. And particularly as we head into autumn, the trend is the perfect opportunity to play around with different fabrics and an opportunity to “finally experiment with more layering ideas,” explains Dennett.
Dark academia outfit ideas
Everlane The Silky Cotton Relaxed Shirt ($65; everlane.com)
Hasson explains that a white button-down shirt is the perfect base to a dark academia inspired outfit. You can opt for a more crisp fabric like cotton-poplin or a slightly more relaxed option like this 100% cotton yarn shirt, which is a bit drapier and softer. While the former will give you more of a formal look, we find this material more comfortable for layering.
Veronica Beard Faustine Dickey Jacket ($650; saksfifthavenue.com)
Dennett calls this mixed media blazer “a transitional season closet essential.” It’s perfect for layering over simpler outfits, since the combination of different patterns on the jacket alone (from houndstooth to herringbone) makes it both a statement piece and versatile piece of everyday outerwear.
Naadam Marled Cashmere Turtleneck Sweater ($199.50, originally $285; naadam.com)
This sweater is “perfect” for achieving that dark academia look, explains Dennett. “I love the color for fall,” she says, “and it’s super cozy.” Made from 100% Mongolian cashmere, the brand describes the material as “heavenly soft.” It’s available in sizes XXS through XXL, so you can choose to size down for a more fitted look or up for a more relaxed one.
Vince Flannel High Waisted Trousers ($395; shopbop.com)
“These pants are great for winter,” says Dennett, “and really have that dark academia feeling.” The high-waisted design and pleated front are super on-trend, and the timeless silhouette makes this piece a breeze to pair with simple tops, like a white button-down.
Hey Harper Nicole Hoop Earrings ($49.99; heyharpershop.com)
When it comes to accessories for a dark academia-inspired look, Hasson opts for small gold hoops, which as she describes are “cute and very trendy.” These earrings from Hey Harper are perfect for those with sensitive skin and those who don’t want to bother with taking off jewelry every time they shower, since they’re coated to be waterproof.
Everlane The Pima Micro-Rib Turtleneck ($40; everlane.com)
Turtlenecks are a perfect piece for layering and one of the key elements of dark academia fashion, explain both Slutsky and Dennett. This super-soft cotton option is perfect for wearing alone (with trousers, jeans or a skirt!) or layered under a larger piece like an oversized cable-knit sweater-vest.
Zara High-Waisted Plaid Pants ($49.90; zara.com)
Plaids are one of the key elements to the dark academia trend, explains Slutsky, which means you can’t go wrong with a classic pair of pants like these. For a dramatic look, pair these bottoms with the matching jacket — simply add a classic pair of black boots and you’re good to go.
Koio Chelsea Nero ($348; koio.co)
When it comes to a classic pair of black boots, Chelsea boots are always one of our favorites. While some designs may skew a bit casual for the dark academia look, these sleek boots are made from Italian leather and beautifully constructed, so you can stay comfy while still looking perfectly polished.
Iets Frans Cable Sweater Vest ($42; urbanoutfitters.com)
Another sweater-vest option, this piece sports a classic cable-knit pattern, which is perfect for achieving that vintage-inspired look. At the same time, the cropped and slightly shrunken fit makes this a more updated silhouette that would perfectly complement high-waisted black pants or a black miniskirt.
Wild Fable Woven Tennis Mini A-Line Skirt ($19; target.com)
When it comes to bottoms, Hasson opts for a black pleated skirt, which keeps the look “elegant yet fun and not too serious.” It’s a versatile piece that helps to achieve that dark academia “good girl” look as Hasson explains, which is an aspect to the trend that she loves.
J.Crew Wool-Blend Mini Skirt ($52, originally $74.50; jcrew.com)
Wool miniskirts are a key element of dark academia style, explains Dennett. Particularly those of darker and duller color patterns. This option is made from a wool blend, and the A-line silhouette is flattering, chic, and perfect for pairing with turtlenecks, wool sweaters or button-downs.
Franco Sarto Charles Patent Derby ($69.97; nordstromrack.com)
As Slutsky explains, oxfords are fair game when it comes to footwear for a dark academia look. This lightweight, patent option is comfortable enough to wear all day long, so you can achieve polished without sacrificing comfort.
H&M V-Neck Sweater Vest ($17.99; hm.com)
When layering pieces for the perfect fall, dark academia-inspired look, Hasson recommends a brown sweater-vest, which adds another texture to your outfit. Not only will it keep you warm, it’s the perfect way to show off the collar and the sleeves of your button-down.
Sheertex Classic Sheer Tights ($99; sheertex.com)
If it’s a colder day, Hasson opts for black tights along with a skirt. While these tights from Sheertex may be pricey, they’re the most durable, comfortable, and flattering tights we’ve ever tested.
Sam Edelman Aretha Bit Platform Loafer ($150; samedelman.com)
If you’re looking to take formal footwear to the next level, this platform loafer is totally classic school uniform turned fashion. In fact, it was even spotted on the “Gossip Girl” reboot! Pair with trousers or a pleated skirt with tights, and you’ve got the perfect dark academia outfit.
JW Pei 90s Shoulder Bag ($31.44, originally $38.99; amazon.com)
The perfect accessory to a dark academia look? Hasson opts for a small, black bag. This versatile shoulder bag is a fan favorite on Amazon, with a nearly 5-star rating from over 1,160 reviews. And for under $40, it’d be a challenge to find something so stylish and popular at the same price point.
Levi’s Karina Ruffle Collar Cotton Poplin Blouse ($48.65, originally $69.50; nordstrom.com)
A cotton poplin blouse like this one is a great option when it comes to a more structured, polished look. Not only do we love the slightly billowy sleeves, but the ruffled collar is the perfect detail for achieving that dark academia, school-uniform-inspired look.
Banana Republic Oversized Washable Merino Sweater Vest ($110; bananarepublic.gap.com)
This oversized sweater-vest is perfect for achieving a more relaxed look, while still maintaining the polish that dark academia style is known for. “I love the idea that this can be a genderless expression,” notes Slutsky. “The particular silhouettes and fabrics of this trend still have an ease about them,” she explains, which is definitely evident in this piece.
Jil Sander Cotton-Poplin Shirt ($790; net-a-porter.com)
“I’m obsessed with this brown Jil Sander shirt,” shares Dennett. “It’s clean and chic, but the color fits right in with dark academia.” Made from cotton-poplin, the crisp material is perfect for looking put-together without looking overly formal. The ties are an adorable detail, which you can let hang or tie into a bow.
Kelsi Dagger Brooklyn Logan Over the Knee Boot ($225; nordstrom.com)
Hasson recommends over-the-knee boots to pair with a pleated miniskirt. This suede option features a 3.5-inch heel, which gives you enough height for that added bit of drama. It’s also available in a range of other colors, so you can opt for a color that matches your jacket or miniskirt for an effective monochromatic look.
J.Crew Cotton-Cashmere Cable-Knit Mockneck Sweater ($128; jcrew.com)
Dennett recommends this sweater both because it’s cute and also because the price point is a bit lower than other cashmere options. It’s made from a lightweight cotton-cashmere blend — a fantastic option because it’s machine-washable. And of course, the cable-knit is classic dark academia, while the contrast stitching is a unique detail.
Victoria Beckham Pinstriped Herringbone Wool Wide-Leg Pants ($890; net-a-porter.com)
“I love these super chic Victoria Beckham pants,” Dennett says, noting that they’re extremely versatile as well. The tailored design and slightly baggier silhouette make these the perfect on-trend staple for fall, which you can’t go wrong pairing with anything from classic button-down to a frillier lace top.
Zara Textured Plaid Pinafore Dress ($49.90; zara.com)
This adorable pinafore minidress boasts a pop of color, which is a fun way to spice up the dark academia palette of mainly dark colors and neutrals. Dennett suggests layering a white button-down underneath.
Rejina Pyo Kenna Color-Block Ribbed-Knit Vest ($400; net-a-porter.com)
“This vest has a slightly sporty feel,” says Dennett. She’s a big fan of pairing vests with white button-downs when it comes to achieving that dark academia look, and this option is perfect for just that. The neutral color blocking is super trendy but easy to wear and incorporate with existing pieces you probably already have in your wardrobe.
Owiizi Matte Large Hair Claw Clip ($4.99; amazon.com)
For anyone that’s spent hours studying, you’ll know that keeping your hair back is a must. Hasson opts for a claw clip, which is a quick, easy and effortless way to make sure hair stays out of your face. It’s also the perfect way to achieve a glamorous look without having to style your hair.