Do you remember those movies and books where the main character is bullied and made fun of because they are a nerd? Well, we aren’t doing that in 2023 anymore! Thank God for social media creative movements for fueling a digital culture we didn’t know we needed. The Academia aesthetic is for scholars who love celebrating learning, studying, reading, and research. Academia is a group of aesthetics that celebrates everything academic such as classrooms, uniforms, chunky books, notebooks, and more.
Light Academia vs. Dark Academia – Explained!
It is meant for those who revere the desire to gain knowledge and places intelligence on a pedestal. Academia has a branch of sub-categories, such as Dark Academia, Light Academia, Romantic Academia, Art Academia, and Chaotic Academia. All of which are profoundly sophisticated in their unique ways. However, out of all these aesthetics and themes, Light Academia & Dark Academia have gained a terrific response from people on the internet.
These two digital sub-cultures have become insanely famous, especially amongst the GenZ. The pandemic played a significant role in bringing these aesthetics to the forefront. Students felt disconnected from their college and university life, sitting in their rooms and attending online classes. They soon resorted to Academia aesthetics, which allowed them to express themselves during tough times. Hence, we can see the rise of light Academia and Dark Academia during 2020 and afterward.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Theme:
The Dark Academia aesthetic combines the Oxbridge and Ivy League traditional academic vibe with a gothic style of expression. On the other hand, Light Academia is a softer and more romanticized aesthetic than Dark Academia.
The theme of Dark Academia looms in the direction of literary tragedy, mystery, death, dark arts, horror, isolation, existentialism, and many other Gothic themes. There is a certain melancholy and gloom about it. The characters are often seen to struggle with power confinement and distress. We find supernatural elements, prophecies, bad omens, etc.
In a way, Dark Academia allows us to find beauty in tragedy. Imagine the gothic towers of an esteemed university, tall ceilings with old-fashioned chandeliers, thick pillars, humongous libraries with dark oakwood bookshelves and furniture, vintage hardback books, elaborate uniforms, cold weather, pensive music running in the background – this is what Dark Academia must feel like.
Light Academia, on the other hand, is more optimistic and uplifting. It focuses on love, romance, sensitivity, friendship, joy, and upbeat themes. Like there are snowy winters for the coldness of Dark Academia, we have the spring, summer, and early fall for light Academia. Can you remember Kiara Knightley in the introductory scene of Pride & Prejudice?
It’s a beautiful bright day with a golden sun. Elizabeth (Kiara Knightley) is taking a stroll, walking on grass and a cobbled path. She is immersed in a book while dressed in a comfortable brown dress. You can feel the mild breeze on your face and the day’s peace. This is what we call Light Academia. Pride & Prejudice is, however, also considered a cottage-core aesthetic book. Cottage Core has become famous in the past few years. It’s all about the slow, peaceful rural life. The serenity of the countryside is highlighted in this aesthetic.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Color Palette:
The Dark Academia color palette includes burgundy, dark brown, black, black bean, maroon, sage green, emerald, mustard yellow, dark blue, scarlet, and olive green. An array of neutral tones, such as cream and golden oak, often complements these colors.
The Color palette of Light Academia includes lots of neutral and earthy tones like beige, taupe, ivory, cream, light brown, grey, etc. Since Dark Academia includes several negative themes, the colors used to express the feelings are darker and bold. Similarly, lighter neutral colors are used to bring out the optimism of Light Academia.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Architecture:
Dark Academia is all about Victorian Gothic Architecture, which was prevalent in Europe. We can find Gothic elements in universities, churches, and cathedrals throughout Europe and other continents. The Gothic Style of Dark Academia carries medieval aesthetics, which include – large lancet windows which would give a kaleidoscopic look when the sunlight shines through the glass, tall pointed arches, rib vaulting, which is a skeleton of arches to cover and provide support to round roofs, flying buttresses, which would help distribute the weight of the heavy roof towards the lower and a more solid part of the building, and decorative elements such as grotesque shapes, gargoyles, sculptures of historical figures, statues of saints, etc.
On the other hand, Light Academia is all about Greek and Neoclassical architecture. Therefore, the Light Academia architecture aesthetics include lots of marble work or wide columns painted white to imitate the marble work, Round or square columns made of wood, brick or brownstone walls, pilasters, elaborate front porches, portico, sloping roofs, and broad and tall pillars.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Fashion/Dress Code:
The Dark Academia fashion emanates nostalgia with its reference to England’s early 1900s private school attire. Dark Academia screams VINTAGE! If you want to dress up according to the Dark Academia aesthetic, you must look for – Plaid & Pleated skirts, Turtlenecks, Sweaters & Sweater Vests, Collar Shirts, Knee-high socks, Wool Coat, Blazers, Mary Janes, Trousers, Leather Satchels, etc. The Dark Academia aesthetic heavily inspired Joe Goldberg’s fashion in You Season 4.
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On the other hand, the Light Academia fashion takes a more positive and warm approach to enjoying student life. Light Academia screams COSY! Here are some clothing pieces that will help you assemble a Light academic outfit – Cardigans, Plaid Pants, Chinos, Flowy dresses, A-line Skirts, Pleated Skirts, Trench Coats, Argyle Socks, Loafers, and Lace-up Oxford Shoes.
We have already discussed the color palettes for both aesthetics so you can refer to them for your shopping scene.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Activities:
The Dark Academia activities and hobbies include reading gothic fiction while it’s raining outside, visiting a museum, visiting a library, solving clues & riddles, solving a puzzle, and playing chess.
Light Academia activities and hobbies include visiting a cozy cafe, reading a mystery book, practicing calligraphy using a fountain pen, going to bookshops, writing letters and poems, and seeing a historical center.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Books:
Reading books is one of the best ways to enjoy both Academia aesthetics. Books make it so enjoyable to visualize the elements and vibe. Also, the difference between Dark Academia and Light Academia can be understood more clearly with the help of books.
Some books that exude Dark Academia aesthetic – The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Dracula by Bram Stoker.
However, in case you want to enjoy the warmth of Light Academia. In that case, you can get your hands on these books for a better understanding of the aesthetic – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, The Love Hypothesis by Aliz Hazelwood, Call Me By Your name by Andre Aciman, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and Emma by Jane Austen.
Light vs. Dark Academia – Movies and TV Shows:
If you still need to become a reader (We have many beginner-friendly book recommendations that will turn you into a reader in no time), you can watch movies and shows about the richness of aesthetics. I love watching Dark and Light Academia movies and TV shows because of the grandeur of the sets, serene backdrops, stunning visuals, incredible outfits, and the overall beauty of each frame of the movie or show.
Also, the film makes it so easy to spot the differences between Dark Academia and Light Academia. You can easily see the differences in architecture, music, genre, theme, color palette, etc. Here are some Dark Academia-inspired movies and shows I loved – The Harry Potter Films, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Maurice, Wednesday, Dead Poets Society, The Queen’s Gambit, The Beguiled, and Like Minds.
I have many favorites in Light Academia; some have left an incredible mark on my mind. These movies and shows will instantly transport you to the aesthetic Romanesque early fall world – Bridgerton, Gilmore Girls, Pride & Prejudice, Anne With An E, The Age Of Innocence, Northanger Abbey, The Half Of It, and The Theory Of Everything.
If you love spending time with dusty hardbound books in your University library, I’m sure you must have enjoyed this article. Nothing is quite as satisfying as finding joy in the small elements of your student life. Once you are out of academic life, you miss the smell of books, the smoothness of your school’s uniform, and the pleasure of learning. The Dark Academia and Light Academia aesthetics have helped students and people find the joy of academic life through one of the most challenging times globally and historically. Let us know which one you prefer, Dark Academia or Light Academia. As for me, I’m more of a Dark Academia girl!
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