Dark academia is a vast and fascinating trend that has taken the social media world by storm, particularly in the last few years or so.
The nature of the dark academia subculture revolves around an idealized concept of education and the idea of knowledge and learning – such as classical literature, Gothic and Greek architecture and ancient art.
The subculture is also associated with a certain period of time, usually ranging from the late 19th century to the first four or five decades of the 20th century.
This isn’t the case for all dark academia, but even if there is a more modern setting, the traditional gothic vibes will still be a strong element of the aesthetic.
Various forms of media adapt the dark academic theme and base their aesthetics around it.
A few examples of popular dark academia themed works include the Harry Potter book series (and the accompanying movie series), the Dishonored video game series and the Penny Dreadful television series.
Think Victorian gothic mixed with high-end academia and art and you’ve got dark academia!
It is interesting that a subculture that is so immersed in an older style and aesthetic has become so popular in our contemporary society, particularly as it rose to prominence through social media.
The social media site Tumblr is where the dark academia subculture saw its rise back in 2015. It then made a comeback in 2020 and has only continued to rise in popularity throughout all kinds of media forms.
As well as within the media, the dark academia trend is one that is highly prominent in fashion.
There is a certain look that is associated with dark academia, that of deep and brooding professors in blazers or young, studious women wearing copious amounts of tweed.
This is a somewhat stereotypical view of the fashion associated with dark academia, but most of it revolves around academics- as the name not so subtly suggests – combined with a dark, gothic edge.
Dark academia has become so popular that it is a theme that is now easily able to be obtained when shopping for clothing in a variety of stores.
With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look into the fashion of this subculture with 25 of dark academia fashion brands that are available right now!
Mango is a fashion brand that offers wonderful quality when it comes to clothing, and this includes a wealth of clothing that could easily become part of a dark academia themed outfit.
The Check Wool Blazer is a perfect example of that studious look associated with the subculture.
As well as having a variety of academic style blazers to choose from, Mango also have some fabulous long, woolen coats to hit home that Victorian gothic vibe.
Their line of cardigans and sweaters also has some great options when it comes to the dark academia look.
Brandy Melville has tons of fashion choices that have become increasingly popular on the social media platform TikTok, so it is no surprise that they sell clothes that are aligned with the dark academia aesthetic.
There aren’t a great deal of large and bold set pieces when it comes to the dark academia style, but there are items that can easily be used to layer your outfits, which is a staple for the fashion of this particular subculture.
For example, the Danielle Cotton Sweater Vest is the perfect example of a piece that is made for layering whilst also oozing that academic vibe that dark academia is known for.
They also offer skirts that reflect the dark academia vibe too, particularly those that are set in an educational setting where a uniform is worn.
The Sof Low Waisted Plaid Skirt that Brandy Melville offers is just begging to be teamed up with opaque pantyhose and a pair of boots to get that gothic university look.
There is a great deal of diversity in the pieces that Uniqlo offer that can easily allow you to build a dark academia themed wardrobe. They have a range of items, such as wool blend jackets, tweet vests and more.
Uniqlo’s accessories are perfect for the dark academia trend, too, as many of the accessories within the subculture rely on simple elegance and style to match the darkness that the name of the trend suggests.
Items such as the +J Leather Tote Bag – with a simple black leather design that corresponds with the dark academia theme perfectly- or the UV Protection 2Way Twill Cap and the Ines De La Fressange 3D Knit Beret are all ideal as finishing touches to the academic look, whilst also maintaining that dark and broody feel.
4. Nasty Gal
This next fashion brand tends to stray into the realms of either the super feminine or the edgy punk look, neither of which are particularly in line to the dark academia themes.
However, the items that they have that do fit the bill are some of the best in that they perfectly encapsulate the look and the style.
For example, their Check Print Wool Look Double Breasted Longline Coat looks like it belongs on a protagonist from a Victorian novel! Nasty Gal also offers the Oversized Check Blazer, which is the embodiment of the academic nature of the genre.
Whilst not all of their attire suits the theme, what Nasty Gal does offer in terms of the dark academia theme makes it one of the best fashion brands to get your gothic, academic couture from.
Madewell is another brand that isn’t necessarily the immediate brand that you would consider when it comes to the fashion of dark academia, but much like the aforementioned Brandy Melville, Madewell shines when it comes to perfect pieces for layering in a dark academia manner.
Warm layering is what dark academia focuses on (so many of the settings of dark academia themed stories are set in the cold weather or a cold environment in general!) and Madewell offers this look by the barrel full with tons of button ups, wrap shirts and pullover tops in a variety of styles.
An example of this is the Waffleback Branner Shirt-Jacket in Windowpane, which has a perfect dark academia style thanks to the oversized look, the autumn color palette and the buttons on the front and the pockets.
The Larsen Blazer in Windowpane is also a great example of the dark academia theme in the Madewell brand.
This blazer could easily be paired with a turtleneck and a skirt with pantyhose or dark pants and boots to get that academic look with a hint of the gothic.
The items offered by Nordstrom veer more towards the luxury line – not quite high end but more aimed towards the luxury market than the streetwear brands – so their attire is a little pricier, but there is a lot of choice when it comes to fashion that can be transformed into a dark academia wardrobe.
From coats to jackets, skirts to dresses and beyond, Nordstrom has tons of items that can be mixed and matched to design your very own look based on dark academia.
For instance, the LIKLEY Alia Tweed dress makes a statement all on its own, whilst the Dorest Plaid Wool Blend Blazer is a beautifully academic jacket that could be layered with a variety of items to get the look that you are searching for.
Much like Nordstrom, ASOS has a huge variety of options with their clothing. ASOS likely has even more choices than some of the other brands that we have mentioned here.
Thanks to the vast array of items, there is also a variety of options that could be used to layer your dark academia themed outfit, such as the Stradivarius High Neck Sweat in Black which would combine effortlessly with the In The Style Plus x Saffron Barker Tweed Houndstooth Shacket in Brown Multi to create an academic style that would perfectly fit into the dark academia aesthetic.
The great thing about ASOS is that it is one of the more affordable brands too, meaning that no matter your budget, you should be able to find something that fits into your price range.
Shein is not only another highly affordable brand, it also has a whole section dedicated purely to dark academia. You can find exactly what you are looking for with Shein, but it doesn’t stop purely at fashion.
Shein also offers dark academia themed home decor, jewelry, accessories and kids clothing as well as women’s clothing.
No matter what your aim is when it comes to embracing the dark academia subculture, you are sure to find something that will satiate your desire to delve into dark academia with Shein.
Another affordable yet stylish brand that has a fair amount of choice, ZARA offers a range of clothing that can be turned into a dark academia dream, such as the Oversized Plaid Blazer – with long sleeves, a lapel collar, front flap pockets, pronounced shoulders and a double-breasted front with button closure-, which would blend beautifully with their Basic Knit Mock Neck Sweater to create a simple yet sophisticated look with a dark academia vibe.
10. Urban Outfitters
Well known fashion brand Urban Outfitters are known for their trendy nature, and that reputation is relevant in regard to the items that they sell that could be used to create a dark academia themed outfit.
If you’re looking for a slightly different take on dark academia fashion, Urban Outfitters is a great place to start.
11. Pixie Market
Much like Urban Outfitters, Pixie Market offers a trendier style of clothing with items that could be mixed and matched to create a unique and dynamic dark academia wardrobe.
For instance, Pixie Market offers an eco-friendly Black Draped Asymmetric Top that could create a different yet still academic look when combined with a blazer.
They also have long skirts – such as the Black Wool Pleated Skirt – that are versatile enough to be mixed with all sorts of different shirts, shoes and accessories for a trendy and different take on the theme.
Pixie Market are also dedicated to being a sustainable company – with an end goal of global sustainability- which is always a bonus point when it comes to choosing a fashion brand.
Canadian company Dynamite ships to the US and is another fashion brand that offers some affordable prices whilst also being long-lasting.
Dynamite are also another option that doesn’t have a huge amount of options when it comes to dark academia themed clothes- or clothes that could easily be made to fit into this theme- but what it does have works perfectly.
For example, the Kaila Plaid A-Line Skirt is the picture-perfect style when it comes to a dark academia skirt. It would work excellently with pantyhose, boots and a black shirt to create the ultimate gothic academic look.
H&M is a brand that offers some incredible sweaters – such as large knits and warming turtlenecks- and oversized items – like jackets and cardigans – that can fit beautifully into the dark academia theme.
Their oversized turtleneck sweaters and rib knit cardigans are a great example of this, but they also offer warm apparel, such as the Turtleneck Sweater Vest and the Oversized Sweater, that are perfect examples of dark academia wear.
H&M also has affordable prices that won’t break the bank, which is always a positive.
There are a wide variety of academic styled clothes available with Artizia, both light and dark in nature.
Artizia’s stellar range of blazers are one of the store’s highlights when it comes to academic styling, with blazers ranging from plaid (their Oversized Department Blazer is a standout), to check and to leather, all of which could be combined with the variety of comfy pants, button up cardigans and turtlenecks that the brand also offers to create the ultimate dark (or light!) academia look.
Artizia is one of the pricer options, but the wide array of items that can be used to create a chic and sophisticated dark academia wardrobe makes it worth every penny.
Anthropologie is another slightly more expensive choice, but one that offers so much variety that you are likely to find something that you can use for the dark academia look that you want to create.
For example, let’s consider the material that is tweed for a moment.
Tweed is a common element in the dark academia aesthetic due to the connection it tends to have with professors and those in higher education in general (a good old-fashioned tweed jacket is a timeless fashion item, after all!).
If you can afford the prices that Anthropologie ask for, definitely consider utilizing this fashion brand to create your dark academia themed wardrobes.
16. Frank And Oak
Another Canadian company, Frank and Oak combine practicality, honesty , functionality, style, and sustainability. Their sustainable clothes are built to last whilst being ecologically friendly.
They also offer various items that can be used to get that dark academia look, particularly with their sweaters and sweater vests, such as The Merino Wool Sweater in Tobacco and The Lambswool Blend Vest in Grey.
17. Oak + Fort
Not to be confused with Frank and Oak – who we talked about above – Oak + Fort is a highly underrated brand that is fantastic when shopping for dark academia wear.
Their oversized Fuzzy Plaid Coat would work excellently with a turtleneck to get that academic look, whilst the Cropped Blazer provides a spin on the classical blazer motif that is popular with the dark academia style.
Storets is a mid-range option when it comes to price, but a top tier choice in terms of sophistication.
Their outerwear offers a range of options that fit into the dark academia theme – such as the gorgeous Meri Double Face Long Coat and the Nya Frayed Tweed Vest– but they also offer tons of other items such as plaid skirts, square toe boots and sweater vests that exude that dark academia charm.
JING might be a newer fashion brand on the scene, but what they lack in experience (compared to some of the other brands we have spoken about here), they make up for in versatility and style.
There is so much that JING offers that could be used to create a dark academia look.
JING has so many options that you are sure to find something to match the academic vibe that you are searching for. JING is also one of the more affordable brands on this list, which is of course a bonus point!
As we mentioned, layering is the key when it comes to achieving that dark academia look, and COS is another brand that offers a variety of options to nail the layered look.
The knitwear that COS offers is a great way to make a start with your dark academia wardrobe, such as with their Knitted Vests and their V-Neck Cardigans, both of which are the perfect starting blocks for tons of layering options.
21. Chic Wish
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t think that a fashion brand with the name Chic Wish would sell many clothing items that could pertain to the dark academia theme!
However, Chic Wish have a surprising amount of items that would blend in beautifully with the academic look, such as the incredibly charming Scarf Bow Knot Mock Neck Shirt or the super cute and unique Corset Waist Pleated Mini Skirt.
Chic Wish is the perfect example of how not to judge a book by its cover or, in this case, a fashion brand by its name!
22. J. Crew
Although the main theme of the clothing used in the J Crew brand is preppy, the brand does offer a lot of items that can blend into the dark academia theme splendidly, such as the Sommerset Blazer in Grey Plaid Italian Wool.
The knitwear from this brand is the standout feature here, so make sure to have a look through to find something that suits the dark academia look that you are going for.
Express is one of those brands that has a little of everything to cater to a wide variety of customers, including those interested in achieving the dark academia look. Again, their sweaters are your best bet to find something to your liking.
An example of an Express sweater that could easily be utilized in a dark academia outfit would be the Ribbed Fitted Crew Neck Sweater, which could easily be layered with an outer knit or a blazer or coat.
This particular fashion brand emphasizes the comfort of the dark academia theme in their clothing. Part of the appeal of dark academia is the whole notion of comfort combined with learning, such as the warm, coziness of an old library.
Everlane offers sweaters and outerwear that would be right at home being worn in an ancient library whilst its wearer reads through a dusty tome! The Oversized Stroopwafel Turtleneck in ReCashmere is a great example of this comforting coziness.
25. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is certainly on the higher end of the price scale – being a high end, luxury clothing brand- but if you can afford it, they offer some fantastic choices to achieve that dark academia look and feel.
Their tailored pants and blazers truly hit home the academic nature of the subculture of dark academia whilst keeping up with that somewhat gothic vibe, such as the tan colored Stamford Wool Gabardine Pants and the Herringbone Silk-Blend Blazer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Dark Academia Fashion Style?
We touched on this a little at the beginning, but to be more specific, the aesthetic style of dark academic takes its inspiration from classic forms of art, writing and architecture- such as the Greek arts- and blends it with Gothic elements.
These elements range from the gothic style to macabre concepts, such as death and destruction.
The fashion style can reflect this- if the wearer so chooses- but the academic elements of dark academia are what the fashion styles accommodated by major brands tend to focus on.
These elements include an emphasis on learning and education, writing and reading.
What Is The Dark Academia Aesthetic?
This can vary from person to person, but it will usually revolve around the blending of the academic and almost “preppy” fashion styles with a gothic touch. If you’re interested in the style, it can become as academic or as gothic as you want it to be!
Mix it up a little to create your own interpretation on what it means to adopt the dark academia aesthetic. Some staples of the aesthetic can include a plaid skirt, a button-up shirt, a turtleneck, blazers and laced boots.
What Kind Of Materials Are Dark Academia Themed Outfits Made From?
It will all depend on where you are buying your clothes from and how they are manufactured, but if you want to find the right materials to get your look perfect, consider the classical style of materials.
Dark academia is a subculture born from the idea of appreciating the classics when it comes to knowledge and academics, so align this thought process with your outfits too!
Classics such as silk, linen, wool and cotton may seem standard, but they will work best if you want to make the most of the aesthetic.