From history to literature. Literature to internet subculture. From internet subcultures to a reinvented aesthetic, the rise of LIGHT ACADEMIA has been captivating. The light academia aesthetic is a counterpoint to Dark Academia. It contrasts academic life’s gloominess and apathy and instills optimism and motivation. Light academia is all about a preppy poetic lifestyle. It has bright colors, soft tones, natural light, easy styling, and a positive attitude.
Fashion brings with it earthy colors and pocket watches. Vintage frames, charming pearls, and an abundance of plaid. We’ll then take a closer look at the current fashion aesthetic, including its origins and subculture.
Light Academia – Frequently Asked Question
What is Light Academia Exactly?
Simply put, the aesthetic of academia and its various subgenres draws heavily from the scholarly. It also portrays a lifestyle that is intellectual. It is characterized by a love of learning and knowledge, emphasizing romanticizing education. The ivy-league aesthetics influences light academia and aims to reflect preppy sophistication with a soft and optimistic vibe. This is reflected in the imagery of classic architecture, elements of lifestyle, and fashion.
What are the characteristics of Light Academia Aesthetics?
The light academic is inspired by classical romantic literature. It conveys sensitivity, joy, and motivation. There are also themes of friendship, romance, and happiness. The aesthetic is predominantly dominated by neutral earthy tones such as beige, creams, light browns, and ivory.
What is Dark Academia?
The aesthetic of dark academia preceded that of light academia. The scholarly lifestyle is its main inspiration, with an idealized arts aesthetic. However, it has a darker substrate. Dark academia is a darker, more gloomy aesthetic that draws inspiration from poetry, architecture, existentialism, and classical literature. The primary color palette of dark academia ranges from black to dark shades such as maroon, grey and brown.
What is Light Academia Fashion?
The light academia style relies on soft colors, knits, and natural fabrics. It also includes earthy tones and neutrals. Light academia casual, work, and school outfits are inspired by classic literature and intellectual dress codes. They feature blazers with pearls or brooches, wool vests with button-downs, duffle and pea coats, saddle and tote bags, berets, and plaid skirts.
What Are the Different Types of Academia Aesthetics?
All of these aesthetics are related: grey academia, dark academia, art academic, and romantic academia. Each aesthetic is inspired by college-inspired aesthetics that are reinterpreted differently through visuals. Cottagecore and light academic also share similar motifs, color palettes, and notes.
Light Academia Aesthetic: A Brief History
Dark Academia: The Story of its Predecessor
Dark academia has its roots in a nostalgic aesthetic that glorifies an earlier time (though it is not defined by time) when upper-class society attended Ivy League schools and encouraged liberal education. However, as an internet subculture, the social-class element is dissipated and replaced by a moodier aesthetic inspired by academics.
The term dark academia first appeared on Tumblr in 2015. However, many novels with the same aesthetic predate it. The Secret History, Donna Tart’s book from 1992, is the official literary source of dark academia. The story is about a murder among students at an elite college in England. Dark academia is a subculture and aesthetic that the internet has embraced. It focuses on literature, education, and arts, with gloomy overtones.
The Romanticization of A Chore
Light academia transforms something that can be a chore, like studying or academics, into a fun activity. Light academia is similar to how you can start to enjoy working out if you wear the best workout clothes, drink from the most stylish water bottle, and sport the latest smartwatch.
The aesthetic’s origins can be traced back to a Tumblr post. In 2019, the user ‘planters’ wrote: “You’ve probably heard of dark academia, but now it’s time for light academia… eating picnics with friends and reading poetry in the sun, feeling the passion and excitement you feel when you make a breakthrough, and falling asleep in your lover’s arms, sunkissed, happy, and everything is beautiful.”
Light Academia Color Palette
The colors are a crucial element in the light academic aesthetic. After all, the word ‘light’ signifies a preference for more delicate and softer shades. In contrast to dark academics with darker themes and images, light academia is more breezy and romantic. Its color palette conveys this.
Light academia tends to be dominated by neutral colors, incredibly earthy ones. Dark academia is characterized by darker shades like greys, black, and browns.
Here is an example of a light academic color palette:
- Ivory and champagne, as well as other off-whites
- Beige, taupe, and sand
- Greys, both light and dark
- Khakis, dusty greens
- Dusty pink and desaturated Blush Maroons, chocolate browns
Light Academia – Elements of Aesthetic
Light academia is no different. Its images are a collection of influences, ranging from architecture and art to philosophy.
Light Academia Locations / Settings
- Museums and art galleries
- You can also read about Libraries
- Castles and palaces
- Coffee shops with a unique charm
- Nature and the Outdoors
Light Academia Inspiration
- Photographer: natural lighting, sepia tones, warm colors
- Art: Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical
- Classic Greek and Neoclassical architecture
- Ideology: Idealism, Renaissance
Themes and Philosophies
- Love of learning, academics, and studying
- Enjoying and studying as a passion
- Knowledge is seen as the primary virtue
- Intellectual stimulation
- A love of classic architecture, literature, and aesthetics
The Elements of Style: Fabrics and Clothing Items, Accessory Items, Shoes
The light academic fashion is poetic. It’s preppy without being too neat. The fashion is full of paradoxes, from ultra-neat button-downs to perfect locks with velvet bows. Too artsy, weathered handbags that buckled under the weight of heavy classic novels. Fashion in light academics is both the cause and the result of academics.
A perfect preppy look outfit can be a great inspiration for a day spent in a museum or learning. A life of academics is reflected in the fashion choices made by its wearer: a half-updo can be both functional for reading and perfectly stylish. A saddle bag that is old and unpretentious can be used to store one’s collection of literature.
Light Academia: Patterns and Fabrics
The light academia collection features a variety of fabrics and patterns with a characteristic color palette. The collection includes various European materials, weaving techniques, and designs originating primarily from Great Britain. Fabrics like linen and madras have a subtle charm, while silk or cashmere are luxurious. This eclectic textile combination can be achieved with a light academic aesthetic.
It is a type of tightly-woven wool with a characteristic weave pattern. It is a rough, warm wool mainly used for outerwear, winter trousers, blazers, or suits because it is weather resistant.
Textiles with a raised “cord” texture, which is made up of parallel lines. It is made from cotton or blends that include polyester.
The pattern is made up of broken checks with contrasting colors.
The term plaid refers to a type of cloth made from woven wool, including different types of plaid originating in Scotland.
Woolen fabric with a design that incorporates both extensive and smaller checks.
Duotones in different colors are woven into fabrics, usually cotton or blended yarns.
The leather is treated to ensure maximum preservation. The light academic aesthetic includes real and faux leather and suede.
Soft fabric made from yarn, cotton, or synthetic fibers. Used primarily in blankets, shirts, and sleepwear.
Cashmere and pashmina goats’ wool is used to make this fiber, known for its softness.
Natural fabric made of flax fibers. Linen is a lightweight, absorbent, and comfortable fabric. It is used primarily to make summer clothing.
The use of yarn loops to create fabric. Useful for blankets, vests, sweaters, and other accessories.
Insect larvae produce natural fiber. Real and imitation silk, which is soft, smooth, and lightweight, are used in light academic hot weather clothing, from button-downs and dresses to dresses.
Check the pattern with vertical and horizontal stripes alternating two different colors.
Wool is a fabric made from the hair of sheep, goats, and rabbits. Wool is a warm, soft, and durable fabric that can be used for many types of clothing, but primarily winterwear and outerwear.
Lace is a fabric made from yarn threads in a weblike design. There are many types of lace, such as knitted, crocheted, and needle lace.
The crossing layer knitting technique results in textiles that have a cable texture. Primarily used to make blankets, scarves, or cardigans.
Diamond patterns are used on socks and sweaters.
Cotton fabric with a tartan-like pattern. It is known for its muted and soft colors.
Light Academia Accessories
Berets are inspired by Parisian style and have a chic, nostalgic appeal. Berets are cashmere or wool and look great with trench and pea coats.
Classic jewelry is the focus of light academia, from pearl necklaces and bracelets to earrings, pendants, and pendants. With their subtle radiance, Pearls are preferred over diamonds because they don’t have the same glitz and sparkle. Pearls have a long history of being seen as symbols of strength and prestige. They are not only used as jewelry but also as embellishments for clothing, accessories, and decor.
Thigh-high socks, whether they are made of knitted wool, cotton, cable knit, or crochet, are a favorite among academics as they evoke the aesthetics of school uniforms.
Headbands were unapologetically preppy in the early 2000s. Scholastic aesthetics ruled.
Watches have become a staple in aesthetics inspired by academia. These include delicate wristwatches, pocket watches, and vintage chain watches (a more costumey interpretation).
Hairpins, clips, and other accessories
Hairpins and clips are similar to headbands. They can be decorated with pearls or covered in velvet, tweed, and other fabrics.
In the jewelry boxes of light academics, you’ll often find vintage brooches in aged metals. The most common motifs are butterflies, gold leaves, and cameos.
Frames in vintage and retro styles are an accessory synonymous with academia. Glass frames, associated with studying, learning, and general academic-inspired aesthetics (as symbols), can be used as decor and outfits.
Statement bows, which are large and made from velvet or silk in a variety of sizes, are a favorite among academics. Hairbows, worn at the back to hold up half-updos, are usually paired with soft curls or loose waves but are always neat.
Some light academic accessories are neat and sleek, like pearls and ribbons. Others are deliberately worn-out and bohemian (like vintage pins and pocket watches). Saddlebags fall into the second category. Bags with a worn-in look are more chic than those with a new design. Bags can be used to carry books; their weathered look is a sign of a love for reading and studying.
Totes are similar to saddlebags, but they’re not as pretentious. Totes are made of cotton or linen and have a simple design. They come in neutral colors, with quotes from classic books.
Leather belts look great with sweaters and tweed trousers. Leather belts can be sharp and contemporary or worn down and vintage. They are a favorite among academia.
Light Academia Fashion: Tops
The light academic collection includes a variety of tops made primarily from natural fabrics. Summer styles include lining tops and button-downs that are oversized and fitted with looser sleeves. Cottage-style white eyelet lace blouses with cottage elements (not shown) are often paired up with beige wide-leg shorts. Collared shirts, with or without buttons, are worn with plaid miniskirts and pleated tennis skirts.
Winter styles include cable knit sweaters and chunkier sweaters with cable knit. They are worn with bottoms of heavier wool and plaid patterns, then layered underneath cardigans.
The typical collection of light academic tops includes:
- Crochet Tops
- Cable Knit Sweaters & Vests
- Collared Shirts
- Poplin Blouses
- Preppy Button Downs
- Ruffled Lace Tops
Light Academia: Pants, Shorts, and Skirts
Wide-leg shorts are popular summer styles, usually in beige and khaki tones with a high waist. Tennis skirts, linen shorts and skirts, and pleated skirts are all popular.
Tweed, corduroy, and boucle in beige or brown tones are essentials for colder weather. Tartan and Glen Check are the most popular patterns, worn with solid-colored tops.
The typical collection of bottoms for a light academic aesthetic includes:
- Tapered Pants
- Pleated Pants
- High Waist Pants & Skirts
- Wide Leg Pants
- Tennis Skirts/ Pleated Skirts
- Tweed Shorts & Skirts
Light Academia Fashion: Dresses
The focus of academic styles is less on dresses and jumpsuits, and more on two-piece outfits. These include combinations such as skirts with tops or shorts with shirts. This preference is based on the fact that school uniforms are a great source of inspiration for academic styles. They tend to be two-piece outfits – or even three if you add vests.
Certain styles of dresses, however, are considered to be a good match for this aesthetic. These include square-top linen dresses, often layered over fitted turtlenecks. Also, plaid dresses with simple lines and boucle or tweed buttoned-down shirtdresses.
The light academic collection includes dresses and jumpsuits.
- Linen Square Neck Dresses
- Linen Jumpsuits & Rompers
- Button-Down Dresses
- Tweed Dresses
- Plaid Dresses
- Cottage-Inspired Dresses
Light Academia Style: Outerwear
The outerwear for light academia is dominated by the same themes: corduroy, tweeds, knits, boucles, and beige. Classics include peacoats and trenchcoats. Vests and waistcoats with masculine lines and belts are also trendy.
The outerwear collection for a typical light academic collection includes:
- Pea Coats
- Tweed & Boucle Jackets
- Trench Coats
- Knit Cardigans
- Duffle Coats
- Tweed Blazers
Light Academia Shoes
The classic men’s shoe wingtip features a leather toe overlay that is shaped in a W shape (or a wing). The wingtip shoe is primarily for men. However, women also love the styles that are inspired by academia. The perforated pattern around the branch is its main characteristic. These are from Scotland or Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Mary-Janes are a classic piece of women’s footwear that has one or more straps on the instep. In 1904, the Brown Shoe Company named its newest design Mary Jane after a cartoon. Mary-Janes were originally flat shoes or shallow heels. Today, they come in many styles. Some are preppier, others are sleeker and modern, and some have different heel heights and types.
Loafers, or slip-ons, are shoes that do not have laces. The Wildsmith Loafer is a shoe with a moccasin-style construction that originated in London. Loafers are flat shoes worn by women and men alike. They go well with business casual and smart-casual dress codes.
Martens is also known as Doc Martens or DMs. It’s a British footwear brand founded in Germany. Dr. Martens was originally a type of practical boot, which was initially marketed as gardening shoes. It quickly became popular as workwear shoes. In the 1950s, Dr. Martens was a trendy footwear style amongst police officers and postal workers. Soon, they became very popular with scooter riders, musicians, and artists. They formed their subculture, where they were seen as a symbol of working-class pride and rebellious attitudes (Dr. Martens).
The saddle shoes were initially designed to be worn indoors at the dawn of the 20th Century. The 1930s and 40s were the heyday of this design, but its appeal as vintage footwear is still strong among vintage fashion enthusiasts.
The light academic aesthetic perfectly suits a shoe named after an Ivy League university. The Oxford shoe is a classic men’s style worn by both men and women. Originally named Balmorals, after the Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This type of footwear has shoelace eyelets attached to the underside of the vamp. These types of shoelace eyelets are called ‘closed laces.’
In recent years, internet aesthetics and dark and light academics have exploded. Here’s a brief look at each.
Romantic academia is inspired by literature, and more specifically, romantic novels. It focuses on the Romantic Era. The primary source of its inspiration is Western European Culture with a poetic spirit. The main themes are the idealization of nature and creativity. Fashionably, romantic academia is characterized by a pastel color palette with feminine blouses. There are also ruffles and bows. The skirts have ample lengths and floral detailing.
Grey and dark academia are closely related. Grey shades ranging from light to deep are the primary colors. Grey academia is characterized by tweed, plaids, black, and solid charcoal shades. Grey academia has a mood that is gloomy, cynical, and pessimistic.
It is a reinterpretation of dark academia. Themes and motifs include haphazard routines and lifestyles, rebellious books, obsession with studying, chaotic environments, and eclectic clothing. Fashionably, chaos academia is characterized by unexpected combinations with an eccentric aesthetic and a slightly quirky feel.
Art academia is a way of life that emphasizes the love for art as an artist and observer. It includes visual arts such as classic art, drawing, sculpture, and calligraphy. Its central theme, similar to that of light academia, is the importance of studying. Strong influences from the 18th Century and 19th Century are also present. The color palettes are neutral tones, earthy browns, greys, and khakis paired with soft goldens.
Cottegacore is a style that celebrates a rural lifestyle. The main elements are:
- Scenic countryside images.
- Traditional skills (baking and gardening).
- Whimsical fashions (feminine dresses and peasant blouses with florals, lace, and dainty jewelry).
Other elements include greenery, baked products, tea, shabby-chic décor, natural woods, and nature. Cottage core is a pastel palette of colors, such as white, dusty tones, and blush, with small prints, from florals to checks.
Light academia is VIBE. It’s settled: light academia is a VIBE. Everything can become the perfect canvas for lightweight academics, from museums to coffee shops to libraries and the outdoors.
It’s warm, soft, and comfortable – their best version. It’s easy and breezy yet still preppy. The light academic fashion aesthetic is full of charm. This style has everything from vintage pins, old books, and hairbows to vintage frames, cozy knit thigh-high socks, and vintage frames. Do you like the ultra-trendy light academic? Tell us in the comments section below!