The continued appeal of TikTok’s dark academic aesthetic and how to wear it properly

“The concept: you were studying at Oxford in 1926. Turtlenecks and vests, checked skirts, tweed blazers, heavy yarn scarves, scuffed leather satchels.

Of all the trends that have emerged over the past 16 months, the surge in TikTok’s “dark academia” aesthetic is one of the most singular. Not so much for isolation reasons – his growth on TikTok and Instagram is in the spotlight of how we’ve all become more sequestered, more online – but for topical reasons.

An extremely tumultuous period of life did not lead to a greater interest in contemporary affairs, but to unease – a desire to look back and inhabit the past. Dark academia lets you inhabit the past in almost every way, from the late 1930s to Antiquity.

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The aesthetic draws on historical periods to inform how we interact with our present: Metamorphosis and Donna Tartt, Chopin and Lana del Rey, quite equal.

The essentials of the dark academic style

Although it masquerades as a literary and scholastic trend, the crux of the dark academia is its fashion. The concept: you were studying at Oxford in 1926. Turtlenecks and cardigans, checked skirts, tweed blazers, heavy yarn scarves, scuffed leather satchels. Pale colors abound: dark brown, cream, charcoal, mossy green, mocha. (Seriously. Then. Many. Brown.)

Texture is critical. In a time when so much of what we wear seems frictionless and innocuous, the dark academia is reminiscent of a time when materiality mattered and clothing had to be tough and durable. Chevron and merino are common, often in diamond and houndstooth patterns. The more the wool is pilled, the better.

The appeal of Dark Academia is understandable. Although it offers a limited set of tones, colors, fabrics and fits to its followers, it still proves to be attractive to many young people, perhaps for this very reason – it is simple, unchanging, simple and uniform in a world of glut.

Plus, it works in all situations, defending linen in summer, woolen knits in winter, silk in between. Not to mention, it’s also pretty inexpensive, given that most of the dark academia essentials can be found second-hand.

What the trend also has the advantage of is that, unlike other aesthetics that are perhaps more decadent, like the cottagecore, it is relatively easy to inhabit. The plethora of sources recognizable for the dark academic style – Circle of Missing Poets, The Queen’s Gambit, Kill your darlings – make it very well defined. There isn’t a lot of guesswork: you know the colors, you know the fabrics, you know the clothes. All you have to do is go to the op shop.

I myself see the call so clearly in part because I am involved in it. Over dinner the other night, I mentioned to a friend that I was writing an article on dark academic fashion. “Yes?” he said ironically. “You know, you’re really not that far yourself.”

He was referring, I suppose, to the fact that I was wearing a white brushed cotton shirt buttoned all the way up, a charcoal wool waistcoat, ironed pants and brogues over cream socks, and that there was a blazer in it. wool slung over the back of my chair. “Yeah,” I replied. “I guess I’m not.”

Avoid the nostalgic economy

But, despite my affinity for clothing from the early to mid-20th century, I can’t escape the feeling that it’s sort of a problem just inhabiting an aesthetic that you see online. I have previously been critical dark academia from a primarily artistic and literary perspective, while other writers have correctly pointed out how non-inclusive and undiversified the trend can be. These are all important questions to consider.

A writer under this heading recently asked the question, “Who needs a time machine when we have fashion?” ” Well said. Clothing is one of our most significant gateways to the past, which is perhaps why fashion is gradually look back instead of moving forward, a trend encapsulated in what Quartz calls the “economy of nostalgia”.

However, fashion is also, fundamentally, a mode of expression, especially of individuality. And good fashion is about finding outfits that not only look good, but are most true to the person wearing them. Our clothing choices take on their full meaning as soon as we walk through the door, because all of a sudden they are our identifying markers. They separate us from the people we meet.

Adopting a dark academic costume in its entirety, in some ways, is a betrayal of individuality, given that you choose to adopt a set of stylistic standards that you haven’t defined. I’m not saying it’s impossible to identify with the dark academia as an aesthetic – it’s possible, it’s possible. From time immemorial, generations have felt estranged from their particular context and longed to enter the world as it once was.

But dressing to someone else’s standard, especially for performance reasons, could be problematic. In 2021, trends and fashions rise and fall with great regularity. The key, then, is to find a space within dark college fashion that is true to you; in other words, find clothes that you would feel comfortable and satisfied in, even when you are home alone, and especially when the camera is turned off.

Make it work with local brands

There are a number of ways to do this. Better to start with the basics: knits of all kinds. Lucky for us, Australia is one of the largest wool producers in the world. We have Merino rams that have roamed our fields for hundreds of years, giving generations of farmers the chance to establish the types of strong traditions that now allow us to produce wool of increasing quality and ethical standards. high.

McIntyre merino and Small knitwear, both based in Melbourne, offer high quality locally made clothing. These are pieces that you will take with you for the rest of your life. They also have great transferability to other styles, in case all the dark academy stuff doesn’t work, you know.

Skirts of different lengths are also a key part of the style. Dominique Healy offers a range of skirts that offer a fine balance of bravery and timelessness. Their floral designs and gingham are striking and offer a chance to shake up the dark standards of academia. The label also offers a range of fluid blouses, a key element of the trend.

Melbourne Kalaurie Label also does something interesting. The label is not a merchant of nostalgia; it prides itself on combining vintage aesthetics with incredible quality and a touch of modern style. He also retained a sufficiently self-aware sensitivity. The subtitle of his Heritage collection – “Life has little fun where you’re not” – is stupid as hell, but it works.

But the essential task is to find that unique piece, the only treasure, which encapsulates everything that you think is beautiful and fashionable. Maybe it’s a particular coat, blazer, or even a belt – something to tie everything together and last a lifetime. For men, this could be anything from the Melbourne label Christian Kimber; for women, an investment of Perri Cutten, Arnsdorf or Bassike.

Or, if you’re budget-conscious, there’s always the fallback solution: second hand. This is the option that I recommend the most. Of course, it sometimes becomes painful to walk along the aisles comprising rack upon rack of ugly. But there is something special about putting up with all the drudgery and finally spotting this piece out of the corner of your eye – the fine herringbone stitch, the diamond pattern, the coarse texture, the pale colors – to the story of where you are about to add a new chapter. And that’s a pretty dark academia, right?

To learn more about TikTok’s fascination with dark universities, try this.

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