Trends 2021: What Is Dark Academia?

These dark academia outfits will have you inspired.
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Following the explosion of cottagecore, cabincore, regencycore and so many more, dark academia is 2021’s next big aesthetic.

The look was born on social media and has recently exploded on video platform TikTok, with users constantly uploading content of them immersed in the aesthetic. Now, Instagram is following suit and the hashtag #DarkAcademia has been used nearly three quarters of a million times – but if you don’t quite get what it is, we’re here to help.

You’d be forgiven for never having heard of it. From Bridgerton came Regencycore, while 2020 was the year of cottagecore. Frankly, it’s hard to keep up – but this look won’t disappoint.

Here, we fill you in on what it actually is.

READ MORE: What is cabincore?

What is dark academia?

Dark academia is an aesthetic born on social media that centres around learning and knowledge with a gothic edge.

The trend often sees users sharing photos that offer a romanticised picture of education, such as books splayed open, vintage-style props, historical buildings and autumnal clothing.

Since COVID-19 has meant many schools and universities have closed their doors, dark academia has grown hugely in popularity, with Google searches for the trend increasing by 4,750%.

Refinery29 suggest the aesthetic has been influenced by popular culture references including Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel The Secret History and the 1989 film Dead Poets Society.

READ MORE: 17 trench coats to see you through till spring

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Outfit inspiration

The dark academia look isn’t fussy, but sticks to neutrals, plaid, tweed, shirts, chunky knits, tailored trousers, and basically anything preppy you can imagine.

The look is perfect for autumn too. Dark colours — olive, navy, brown — which are key in nailing the dark academia look also tend to be the ones people gravitate toward once the breeze becomes cooler.

While many of the trends for AW2021 are bright and maximalist, those who want to keep it cool and dark will find comfort in wearing pieces that fit the dark academia aesthetic. (If you’re still interested in knowing about the trends though, you can check out our report here.)

If you want to try out this look, I’ve looked through pieces that fit it perfectly.

Buy now

& Other Stories Smooth Leather Beret

Smooth Leather Beret, £45, & Other Stories – buy now

Arket Merino Roll-Neck Jumper

Merino Roll-Neck Jumper, £59, Arket – buy now

Mango Check Wool Blazer

Check Wool Blazer, £79.99, Mango – buy now

Zara Full Length Trousers

Full Length Trousers, £29.99, Zara – buy now

Edlyn Poplin Short Weekday

Edlyn Poplin Shirt, £35, Weekday – buy now

Chain-detail loafers - Black - Ladies | H&M GB 2

Chain-detail Loafers, now £15, H&M – buy now