For some, the year begins on January 1, ushered in with champagne and fireworks. For others, the school year starts around Labor Day, with heavy book bags and a carefully packed lunch. I’m in the latter category of people. The beginning of the academic year is the fresh start I crave, no matter my age. The month of September is when I line up blank notebooks and new pens. I crack open my planner and begin by circling my favorite holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The march toward longer nights and shorter days is a progression I celebrate. In October, when the winds begin to howl just a little louder and a chilly rain claws at our window panes, I break out my roster of Halloween movies and a bowl of popcorn. By All Saints’ Day on November 1, I’m ready to start planning the Thanksgiving menu, and by December, I’m decking the proverbial halls with boughs of holly.
Dark Academia: The Preppy-Gothic Trend I’m Trying This Fall
What to wear this time of year? Personally, I love the “dark academia” look. Dark academia combines classic preppy pieces with a color palette on the gothic side of prep (black, brown, gray, navy, burgundy, hunter green). The look is inspired by a (wildly) romanticized version of academia and celebrates activities like haunting used bookstores, studying in the library, listening to or playing classical music, and enjoying art museums.
Below, I’ve rounded up my favorite dark-academia components: preppy blazers, neutral sweaters, wide-leg trousers, leather Oxford shoes, saddle bags and dusty-rose lipsticks. Pick one element to add to your style or combine them all, and rock the dark-academia aesthetic along with me this fall.
1. Preppy Blazers
Featured: J.Crew Parke Blazer
You can’t go wrong with a navy-blue blazer. A blazer can go from the office to drinks, depending on what you pair it with. This wool-flannel blazer from J.Crew is an investment piece and well worth the money. The striped inner lining is perfect. For reference, I’m wearing a size 12. I tried both a 10 and 12 but landed on the 12 to give my arms a fuller range of motion.
2. Neutral-Tone Sweaters
Featured: Uniqlo Cashmere V-neck Sweater (similar crewneck)
Everyone needs a neutral cashmere sweater for fall. Everyone. I find V-necks flattering on me, but crewneck and turtleneck sweaters fit the dark-academia vibe just as well. Below, I’ve picked out seven options at reasonable price points with many different color options. Dark academia demands blacks, grays, chocolates, camels and navy blues. Bonus points if you can work an olive or hunter-green sweater into your ensemble.
3. Smart Wide-Leg Trousers
Featured: COS Wide-Leg Tailored Pants
A good wide-leg trouser calls to mind Katharine Hepburn, the grand mistress of incorporating gorgeous menswear touches into her style). Wide-leg trousers say, “I will be taking up literal and metaphorical space in this meeting,” and, “I require ease of motion in my outfit because I might be striding briskly across campus on my way to give a lecture about Renaissance art later this afternoon.” I’ve done the legwork for you here (pun intended) and rounded up eight dark-academia trousers for you below.
4. Sleek Oxfords
Featured: Dr. Martens 1461 Smooth Leather Shoes
It’s 2022 — no, men can’t have all the fun, which means they can’t have Oxford and Derby shoes to themselves. It’s hard to put a finger on the allure of a smooth, well-made leather shoe, but these Dr. Martens are perfect, in my opinion.
Dr. Martens 1461 Smooth Leather Shoe
The Oxfords in the photos are a deep, subtle burgundy that makes this pair stand out as unique in my closet full of black and brown shoes. There’s also a beautiful hunter-green version of this shoe that I’d love to see one of you style.
5. Chic Saddle Bags
Featured: Portland Leather Saddle Bag
Nothing says preppy quite like a good saddle bag because the design evolved from equestrian gear. In “Love Story,” Ali MacGraw’s character, Jenny, carries a small, brown purse in a natural leather color, making this Portland Leather Saddle Bag a dead-on fit for the dark-academia style.
Featured: Portland Leather Saddle Bag
Budget-friendly, just the right size and in a camel color, this saddle bag stole my heart. I can’t wait to see how the patina on the leather ages over time. I love this classic style so much that I wouldn’t mind snapping up the A.P.C. bag I’ve also linked below.
6. Dusty-Rose Lips
Featured: Em Cosmetics Infinite Lip Cloud in Rose Nude
A defined lip is a critical component of any vintage-inspired aesthetic. Whether you go with a wine-colored stain, classic red or luscious plum, you’ll look amazing. For this outfit, I wanted to round up my favorite dusty-rose lip products because I love this color, and I think it can be tricky to pick out in a sea of ‘90s-inspired brownish nudes and true pinks. This Em Cosmetics Infinite Lip Cloud in Rose Nude is a comfortable liquid lipstick with a matte finish, giving the makeup look the retro feel I was trying to achieve.
Neutral, preppy and chock-full of versatile, classic pieces worth the investment, the dark-academia look is incredibly wearable. I love claiming menswear pieces for my own, especially in the context of a style inspired by Ivy League universities — many of which didn’t admit women until the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Adding a little polish to my style with blazers and trousers inspires me to make space for intellectual curiosity and cultivate the appreciation of art and beauty in my everyday life. Whether we carve out a corner for ourselves in a quiet coffee shop or sit by ourselves for an extra five minutes on a bench in a museum, I hope we each get to enjoy a metaphorical or real room of our own over the coming months.
Here’s to a fall season filled with great books, writing letters by hand, and slowing down to give our attention to the pleasures of a darker, more-interior season of the year.
Oh, Pinnersss. Looking for this?
Great glasses too!
I love this piece! So fun! You look great and it definitely makes me wish I was back at college.
As an actual “Professor”, I’m afraid I would disappoint — last week I wore Athleta cosmic pants, jcrew ripped Point Sur jeans, outerknown blanket shirt x2, voloshin gauze shirt on my dressy day lol… and on my WFH days vuori joggers and hoodie.
But then again, I’m in geology not classics.