Dark Academia: The Trend and its Classism

Naomi Volcy – Staff Writer

The trend of Dark Academia is one that has gained traction on Tik Tok in 2020, the months following the pandemic. It is popular amongst Generation Z. At face value, it is a trend that focuses on fashion and aesthetics. At its core, the trend places an emphasis on higher education, Greek and Gothic architecture, literature, poetry, and the arts. The fashion aspect of the trend resembles 20th-century men’s fashion and/or imitates the uniform of private, boarding, and preparatory schools. Thus, colors such as brown, black, and white are staples; also, attire such as cardigans, sweaters, vintage tweed pants, button-down shirts, skirts, plaids, etc are prevalent. The aesthetic aspect of the trend resembles something dark yet intriguing like a vanitas painting or a Harry Potter novel. Viewing these Tik Tok videos you can see a range of items used to create this aesthetic, such as skulls, candles, dark photos, parchment paper, brooding poetry, dark library settings, backgrounds of Greek and Gothic architecture, classical music, etc.

The trend of Dark Academia has brought about many criticisms on its representation and its significance. One being its focus on whiteness. The trend does take much of its inspiration from upper-class European culture and, arguably, American upper-class culture. The trend is argued to be littered with economic and cultural privilege because many that partake in the trend and its subculture will never, first-hand, experience dark academia. Seemingly, as it is argued, it reinforces the status quo and the power of the ruling class.

I believe this analysis is correct in a retrospective sense. Though, it points out something that is to be expected because of the trend’s cultural influences. Thus, I find it more interesting to analyze this trend from a contemporary standpoint.

What is truly holding the masses back from experiencing true Dark Academia? I believe the class aspect is the biggest hinder. In our society, the middle class is disappearing, and many are dipping into poverty, while wealth continues to grow for those who already have it. This leads me to believe that the conversation we should be having around this trend is how affordable is higher education? In recent years, conversation on canceling student debt has circled amongst media outlets. It became such a significant issue that many Presidential candidates adopted it as a campaign promise, such as our current President Joe Biden. It was a campaign promise that snagged the attention and votes of Millennials and Generation Z. Since Biden’s election, the issue still has yet to be dealt with.

The reality is that many can not afford higher education, and at some point will have to take on student loans. The flipside to this would be not going to college and/or university, which is a reality that Generation Z is starting to accept. An online culture centered around no partaking in higher education, rather starting a business or trade has emerged and become very prominent.

The trend of Dark Academia is creative, beautiful, dark, and interesting. It is one that started off as vintage fashion and higher education aesthetics and has shifted to conversations on our culture today. Due to my belief that class is the main hindrance to experiencing dark academia, I believe that is why there is such an obsession around it. It’s like window shopping at a luxury clothing store or a luxury car dealership. I do believe that everyone should take a look at the trend and its contents. Enjoy the work and come to your own understanding of its contents.

Dark Academia / Image Courtesy of Aesthetics Wiki