dark academia
dark academia

Dark & Light Academia Outfits: Your Essential College Guide

Pick your aesthetic this back to school season.

A new school year is a chance to reinvent yourself, and thanks to social media, two aesthetics have emerged and quickly become wildly popular: dark academia and light academia.

If you’re clueless as to what these looks even mean or which one you should choose, you’re in the right place. We’ve broken down each subculture so you can find the perfect aesthetic for yourself come the start of the new semester. From fashion to decor, this is your essential guide to dark and light academia!

What Is Dark Academia?

Dark academia is a social media aesthetic that focuses on higher education. The subculture places an emphasis on writing, poetry, the arts, and classic Greek and Gothic architecture. Calligraphy, museums, libraries, and coffee shops feature prominently. Its most closely associated with the season of autumn. It has also been described as maximalist and nostalgic in culture.

Dark Academia Colors

As the name implies, dark academic colors are muted in tone. The color palette mainly consists of black, white, beige, browns, dark green, and sometimes navy. Think deep, rich, neutral-toned colors when building your aesthetic.

Dark Academia Decor

Due to its maximalist nature, dark academia tends to have a dense, cluttered look to it. Other common inspiration when it comes to decor is Gothic architecture, candles, and dark wooden furniture. Some themes from goth subculture also crossover due to the emphasis on finding beauty in dark things.

Dark Academia Outfit Ideas

The fashion focuses on styles popular during the 1930s and 1940s worn at British Ivy League schools like Oxford and Cambridge. Popular articles of clothing to own are cardigans, blazers, dress shirts, plaid skirts, and anything made out of houndstooth or tweed. As for dark academia shoes, the consensus generally seems to be Oxfords, Brogues, loafers, derbies and combat boots. Doc Martens (also known as DMs or Docs) have all of these. Another suitable choice are Chelsea boots, although maybe a bit out of the box. Stick with the Doc Martens 1461 style shoe if you want a safe bet for accessorising dark or light academia outfits.

Dark Academia Glasses & Accessories

If you’re shopping for glasses to match your new dark academia aesthetic, you’re going to want to find something that has a more vintage look to it. Thin, gold frames are the most popular choice, but essentially any glasses with a dark and warm-tones frame with work. As far as accessories go, think rich-toned leather (or faux-leather) and classic luxe brands like Burberry or Dooney & Bourke.

Dark Academia Shoes

Matching the heavy and dense fashion choices, shoes need to fall into this category as well. Oxfords are a popular choice, but there are other options. Anything with a chunky sole will fit in nicely, so things like Doc Martens, Mary Janes, or loafers work, too.

What Is Light Academia?

While it might be easy to think that light academia is the exact opposite as dark academia, this isn’t 100% the case. The subculture still emphasizes finding beauty and the studying of literature, art, history, and architecture (usually European). It’s also about the warm and positive parts of student life.

Light Academia Colors

The most common colors associated with light academia are white, tan, cream, gold, and other pale or pastel shades. An emphasis is placed on natural lighting, plenty of sunshine, and Golden Hour (when the sun is just rising or just setting).

Light Academia Decor

Cozy and domestic imagery is at the center of light academia. Similar to cottagecore, there are a lot of unmade beds, books, food (usually coffee, bread, and fruit), and cluttered apartments. Again, natural lighting is hugely important, with artworks tending to focus on nature.

Light Academia Outfit Ideas

The fashion pieces needed for light academia are similar to that of dark academia, except with a different color palette. There are lots of blazers, turtlenecks, cardigans, and cable knits. A good camel coat is also an essential part of light academia aesthetics.

Light Academia Glasses & Accessories

Accessories associated with light academia are usually hair ribbons and clips, ruffled socks brooches, and pearls. As far as glasses go, they’re very similar to dark academia glasses—thin, gold frames. But with light academia, you can opt for for dainty designs and embellishes.

Light Academia Shoes

Light academia shoes are the same as those of the dark academia variety, except with the light academia color palette applied. Still shop for shoes like Oxfords, Mary Janes, and Doc Martens. Just be sure to get them in lighter colors like tans and creams.

People Also Ask…

Where To Buy Dark Academia Clothes

While is can be easy to spend a lot of money on the dark academia aesthetic with heritage brands like Ralph Lauren and Burberry perfecting the aesthetic over decades. Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable options out there for you to shop at! They’re even more affordable since all of these brands partner with Student Beans, giving you even more of a discount!

  • ASOS: your one-stop shop for all things dark academia fashion
  • Coach: classic dark academia accessories, on lock
  • Dr. Martens: for all your dark academia shoe needs
  • H&M: another clothing store with everything you could need for your dark academia aesthetic
  • Koi Footwear: a shoe brand specializing in chunky (and funky) boots and footwear
  • Nasty Gal: a fast-fashion brand with reasonably-priced dark academia clothing

Which aesthetic do you think fits your look more? Which are you going to choose to embrace for the new school year? Which ever one you decide, we know you’ll nail the look, 100%. And don’t forget to do all your shopping at Student Beans so you can use your discounts!

Looking for more back to school decor ideas? Find out how to set up the ultimate coffee station in your dorm room. And here are the best checking accounts to open before you head of to college.

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