Dark Academia

Wiki Targeted (Games)


Dark academia is a popular academic aesthetic that revolves around classic literature, the pursuit of self-discovery, and a general passion for knowledge and learning. It is one of several variations, each with a unique subject focus. Dark academia's best-known visual variations stem primarily from European cultures.

The upper class of this time period emphasized a liberal education, where Latin, rhetoric, and classics were taught- subjects that are seen as unusual and slightly esoteric, creating an allure that presents schooling as not dreary or boring, but one that cultivates a learned person that learns for the sake of joy.

Other than the romanticization of learning, there is illicitness, danger, and mystery. Secret societies, cults, and murder are subjects within the aesthetic.

People who use this aesthetic are usually referred to as dark academics. However, using this term in real life would cause some confusion as academics are synonymous with researchers and professors, while dark academics have no credentials.


Aestheticization of unhealthy behavior

Dark academia has been criticized for its apparent encouragement of unhealthy behavior in the pursuit of both the aesthetic itself and academic achievement.[1][2] Stress and procrastination related to education, depression and its symptoms, unhealthy sleep habits, including both under and oversleeping, and excessive consumption of coffee, are frequently referenced and discussed in dark academic communities.

Western Eurocentrism

Dark academia focuses predominantly on languages, literature, architecture, art, poetry and fashion originating from Western Europe and has been consequently criticized as Eurocentric. Many dark academics have rejected an exclusionary interpretation of dark academia and encouraged academics to include non-Western languages, literature, architecture, and clothing in their conceptions and use of the aesthetic.[3][4][5]


This section is under construction

It is important to note that in multiple ways, Dark Academia is not new. Rather, it is a continuation of different pre-existing aesthetics that had a basis in artistic periods, literature, and mannerisms surrounding the upper class. The Dark Academia aesthetic referred to in this article is within the context of mid-late 2010s-early 2020s internet culture wherein users, largely teenagers, discuss the contents of the page online. This phenomenon is largely confined to youth culture on social media such as tumblr, Instagram, and Tiktok.

The largest and most notable influence on the aesthetic is the ideas and lifestyles of Romantic-era nobles and intellectuals such as Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Edmund Burke.

The later Aesthetic and Decadent movement, headed by Oscar Wilde, lends the "dandy" and homosexual aspects of the internet aesthetic.

All of these historic periods were reflected in Donna Tartt's The Secret History. The sublime, picturesque, and beautiful are concepts frequently repeated by the narrator, Richard Papen; the main characters vacation in a remote mansion and get drunk, discuss intellectually stimulating topics, and lived decadently, like the Romantic poets did in their famed Geneva trip[6]; and the ritual for Bacchanal is a representation of the same fascination with the irrational.

Appreciation for Donna Tartt herself comes from the Esquire article "The Secret Oral History of Bennington: The 1980s' Most Decadent College," which describes "the baroque wickedness, the malignant glamour, the corruption so profound as to be exactly what is meant by the word decadence."[7] This cements the connection of Donna Tartt and her alma mater to the precedents. Additionally, her androgyny, close friendships, and rock-and-roll lifestyle are admired by the Dark Academic audience.[8] Its publication of 2019 also links this article to the rise in popularity c. 2020.

The tag "Dark Academia" originated sometime around 2015 on tumblr and had a relatively smaller reach, and referred to the main work that started the aesthetic: The Secret History.[9] The aesthetic resembled a book club more than a true aesthetic, and users largely communicated through asks and reblogs to discuss the work itself, with less of an influence placed on fashion and lifestyle. Similar with other fandoms, the The Secret History fandom produced moodboards; however, they did not resemble the typical Dark Academia aesthetic, instead taking on a more minimalist aesthetic with photographic emphasis on symbols relating to characters, typography, and fancasts.[10]

Multiple other fandoms also contributed to the development. Many of the visuals came from the Harry Potter series, which was popular at the time; Gothic castles, whimsy surrounding studying, leather-bound books, and mystery are clear links to the Dark Academia aesthetic.

The exact user who coined the term is currently unknown, and new information would be appreciated.

The aesthetic evolved over time from an aesthetic that had a small community, was learned through osmosis, and


Dark Academia as a whole utilizes the colors black, dark brown, forest green, dark orange, cream, gold, and burgundy. The photographs tend to be dimly lit, as to give the appearance of illumination through only candle light, a sun-less day, or light being unable to reach the interiors of a deep, alcove-filled room. As such, chiaroscuro, the contrast between light and dark, is a common motif within images and outfits. White statues in the dark, pale skin (see Eurocentricism) contrasting dark clothing, and the art movements described below are examples of this style. Often, photo editing is employed to increase the shadows of the image.

The artworks utilized in Dark Academia come from the periods typically associated with European civilization: Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Academic, Romantic, Aesthetic, and Pre-Raphaelite periods are the paintings that are the most commonly reblogged, with subjects such as anatomical studies, vanitas, Christian and Classical mythology, and portraiture of people wearing clothing in the Dark Academia colors.

Sculpture is always done in white marble and in the styles of Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-classical. Technique, such as in the illusion of flesh, psychological presence, diaphonous fabric, and drapery, is admired.

Gothic, Beaux-Arts, and Neoclassical architecture are featured frequently in dark academic images, as most of the prestigious campuses, museums, and libraries were built in this style. Other common buildings are Baroque palaces that evoke masked balls, English manor houses, and Victorian streets. Some of the most common buildings reblogged are: the campuses of Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge; the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum; the Gloucester Cathedral; and the Musee d'Orsay.

The romanticization of studying, journaling, and letter-writing is demonstrated through appreciation for calligraphy and stationary. Fountain pens and typewriters are proudly displayed, and users would often take images of the results of their notebook entries, not unlike Studyblr. However, their writing is cursive, and decorations are sparse.

Images associated with literature are another common photo subject. Antique books, screenshots of e-books with highlighted lines, annotations, and typography are common. Latin, ancient Greek, English, and French are popular in dark academia both as subjects of linguistic study and in aesthetic images of text. A recent tumblr trend is the use of "comparatives/parallels/collections," which are short compilations of 5-10 quotes from poetry, literature, or scripts from different works that center around one motif such as "the kitchen table" and "women and horror." Occassionally, paintings or photographs may be included.

Nature can make an appearance in the aesthetic, mostly in the form of British moors, autumnal forests, and occasional images of seaside cliffs. Dreary weather such as fog and rain enhances the gloomy nature of this aesthetic. This fuether adds to the romanticism of sneaking into the forest to do pagan rituals, as well as creating a connection to the poetry of the American Romantics. The influence of the Picturesque and the Sublime, as outlined in the work of Edmund Burke, is another aspect of this.

Boarding school imagery, such as school uniforms, living in a dormitary, and running away, is more common in younger users. Here, the sense of mystery, danger, and kinship are enhanced, and the professionalism and sophistication connotations are lessened.

Cafe society is also another influence on the aesthetic. Coffee shops are associated with both the flaneurs of 19th-century Paris and the contemporary stressed college students of today. As such, that space is romanticized, and images of coffee, people-watching, and studying within the space is popular.

Violent imagery addresses the "dark" moniker. Like in the novels and films, murder and death are popular subjects. This is displayed through murder weapons that are also aesthetically pleasing, i.e. vials of poison, ornate daggers, and even occasional images of guns. Blood, such as on clothing or on white statues (bashing someone's head) is another example. Graveyards are also another location that is commonly reblogged due to the connotations with Gothic literature and memento mori.

For the purposes of citation, as well as a way to view inspiration, here is a link to the Wayback Machine's snapshots of the dark academia tag on tumblr.


Dark Academia media tends to fall into two types: the first is media that is established as classic, also known as part of "the canon," meaning that the work is considered by academics to have artistic merit and is worthy of academic study. The second group is media that is not studied by academic professionals, and may often be "pop" literature, which means it only seeks to entertain instead of create a philosophical dialogue. They are included here for the resemblance to Dark Academia visuals and tropes. This is why this media list is technically not aesthetically cohesive; the first type spans different eras and explores different topics, leading to a varied list.

Note that what is classified as high literature is connected to critiques of Eurocentrism in Dark Academia.

Here are the common tropes and traits of Dark Academic-specific media, not canonical literature:

  • Set in a boarding school or university that is prestigious, elite, and isolated
  • The characters commit a crime; murder, more often than not
  • The characters keep secrets from each other and have intense interpersonal drama
  • Allusions to Greek mythology, Shakespeare, or other prestigious canonical literature
  • Motifs of hedonism, temptation, evil, and hubris


Please do not list books by authors in the list below. By author surname:

  • The Women in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
  • The Lessons by Naomi Alderman
  • The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
  • Bunny by Mona Awad
  • Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
  • The Shakespeare Secret by Jennifer Lee Carrell
  • The Glass Essay by Anne Carson
  • Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Bacchae and Medea by Euripides
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster
  • The Magus by John Fowles
  • The Likeness by Tana French
  • Mythos, Heroes and Troy by Stephen Fry
  • The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Harding
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
  • Dead Poets Society by N.H. Kleinbaum
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Nada by Carmen Laforet
  • Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Oleanna by David Mamet
  • The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
  • Songs of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern
  • Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained by John Milton
  • I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • The Satyricon by Petronius
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  • If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
  • The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
  • Memoirs of a Woman Doctor by Nawal El Saadawi
  • Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Frankenstein, or: A Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
  • Antigone by Sophocles
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Truants by Kate Weinberg
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
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By author surname:

  • Dante Alighieri
  • Maya Angelou
  • Aristotle
  • Jane Austen
  • James Baldwin
  • Beat Generation (post-war literary movement)
  • The Brontë sisters
  • Albert Camus
  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Federico García Lorca
  • Nicolai Gogol
  • Homer
  • Shirley Jackson
  • Franz Kafka
  • John Keats
  • Count Lautréamont
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Milton
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Plato
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Alexander Pushkin
  • Arthur Rimbaud
  • Sappho
  • V.E. Schwab
  • William Shakespeare
  • Sophocles
  • Noel Streatfield
  • Donna Tartt
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Virgil
  • Walt Whitman
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Osamu Dazai
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan, Left) and Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe, Right) are performing a blood oath while at a party.


By year released:

  • The Invisible Man (1933)
  • Rope (1948)
  • In a Lonely Place (1950)
  • Dial M for Murder (1954)
  • Compulsion (1959)
  • If... (1968)
  • Suspiria (1977 or 2018)
  • Another Country (1984)
  • Clue (1985)
  • Maurice (1987)
  • Withnail & I (1987)
  • The Unnameable (1988)
  • The Chocolate War (1988)
  • True Believer (1989)
  • Dead Poets Society (1989)
  • Metropolitan (1990)
  • Scent of a Woman (1992)
  • School Ties (1992)
  • Peter's Friends (1992)
  • Shallow Grave (1994)
  • Heavenly Creatures (1994)
  • Immortal Beloved (1994)
  • Total Eclipse (1995)
  • Good Will Hunting (1997)
  • Wilde (1997)
  • The Ninth Gate (1999)
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
  • Wonder Boys (2000)
  • The Emperor's Club (2002)
  • The Pianist (2002)
  • The Dreamers (2003)
  • Bright Young Things (2003)
  • Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
  • Capote (2005)
  • Like Minds (2006)
  • The Prestige (2006)
  • The Great Debaters (2007)
  • Brideshead Revisited (2008)
  • Detachment (2011)
  • Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
  • Kill Your Darlings (2013)
  • The Imitation Game (2014)
  • Testament of Youth (2014)
  • The Riot Club (2014)
  • The Theory of Everything (2014)
  • Victor Frankenstein (2015)
  • The Danish girl (2015)
  • The Bookstore (2017)
  • Phantom Thread (2017)
  • Disobedience (2017)
  • Colette (2018)
  • Mary Shelley (2018)
  • Vita & Virginia (2018)
  • The Nightingale (2018)
  • Tolkien (2019)
  • Elisa y Marcela (2019)
  • Knives Out (2019)
  • Las Niñas (2020)
  • Shirley (2020)


  • Aaron Mahnke's Cabinet of Curiosities
  • Dark Dice
  • Lore
  • Myths & Legends
  • The Magnus Archives
  • The Penumbra Podcast
  • Prose Talk
  • Unwell A Midwestern Gothic Mystery
  • Unobscured
  • The White Vault

TV Shows

  • The Alienist
  • Ares
  • Deadly Class
  • Elementary
  • Endeavour
  • Freud
  • Gentleman Jack
  • Hannibal
  • His Dark Materials
  • House of Anubis
  • How To Get Away With Murder
  • Mindhunter
  • Murdoch Mysteries
  • The Magicians
  • The Nevers
  • The Night Gallery
  • Ordeal By Innocence
  • Penny Dreadful
  • Pennyworth
  • Poldark
  • Prodigal Son
  • The Queen's Gambit
  • Sherlock
  • Taboo
  • The Umbrella Academy
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events

Anime & manga

  • 91 Days
  • Ancient Magus Bride
  • Baccano
  • Black Butler (especially the Public School Arc)
  • Black Museum: The Ghost and the Lady
  • Bungou Stray Dogs
  • The Cat Returns
  • Code Geass
  • Colorful
  • Doukyuusei
  • From Up on Poppy Hill
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Garden of Words
  • Gosick
  • Hyouka
  • Joker Game
  • Little Witch Academia
  • Monster
  • Moriarty the Patriot
  • The Promised Neverland
  • The Royal Tutor
  • Saga of Tanya the Evil
  • Snow White with the Red Hair
  • Steamboy
  • Vampire Knight
  • Violet Evergarden
  • Whisper of the Heart
  • Tales from Earthsea
  • The Wind Rises
  • Your Name


  • Another Country
  • The Inheritance
  • Spring Awakening
  • Total Eclipse


  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dogfight
  • Frankenstein: A New Musical
  • Hadestown
  • Jekyll & Hyde
  • Light in the Plazza
  • Natasha Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Spring Awakening
  • Sweeney Todd
  • Twisted
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The music typically associated with Dark Academia evokes the same historical and elite aesthetic through classical music, which is regarded as upper-class and traditional, and multiple people within these types of families were encouraged to pursue music to create a wide profile of skills. Specifically, the classical music used is wide-ranging, as Baroque (Bach, Vivaldi) and Romantic (Liszt, Tchaikovsky) is included. The classical music used in the aesthetic is typically in a tone more romantic, melancholy, epic, or severe, as it is played in the minor key and with piano and strings.

Contemporary alternative music is extremely popular, arguably more so than the classical, and allows for the lyrics to carry across the motifs of romance, betrayal, mystery, and crime. Classical allusions and metaphors with nature are also common techniques. There is a wide variety of instrumentation, although some common characteristics are: the use of strings or piano, slow and deep bass, and backing or echoing vocals. Tempo tends to be slower, and like in classical, has a more melancholy and contemplative tone. The genres that these songs fall into are alternative rock and indie.




  • Symphony No.9 "From the new world" by Antonín Dvořák
  • Icarus by Bastille
  • Goodnight Socialite by The Brobecks
  • Dionysus by The Buttertones
  • For the Damaged Coda by Blonde Redhead
  • Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens
  • Apocalypse by Cigarettes After Sex
  • Claire de Lune, La Mer by Claude Debussy
  • Piano Concerto Op.54 by Edvard Grieg
  • Symphony No.8 "Unfinished" by Felix Mendelssohn
  • Violin Concerto No.2 by Felix Mendelssohn
  • Seven Devils, Shake It Out by Florence and the Machine
  • The French Library by Franz Gordon
  • Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 by Franz Liszt
  • Piano Trio No.2 by Franz Schubert
  • Etude No.11 by Frédéric Chopin
  • Achilles Come Down by Gang of Youths
  • Cherry Wine, Dinner and Diatribes, Take Me To Church, Wasteland, Baby! by Hozier
  • Hungarian Dance No.1 by Johannes Brahms
  • Babooshka, Cloudbusting by Kate Bush
  • I Want to Feel Alive by Lighthouse and the Whaler
  • The Louvre, Sober (II), Writer in the Dark by Lorde
  • Piano Concerto No.3, Piano Sonata No.8 "Pathétique" by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Ann Wants to Dance by Papooz
  • Lotta True Crime by Penelope Scott
  • Pruit Igoe by Phillip Glass
  • Feed the Machine by Poor Mans Poison
  • Dr Mabuse by Propaganda
  • Danse Russe (Moderato / Swan Lake Act 3) Violin Concerto by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Piano Sonata No.2 by Robert Schumann
  • Piano Concerto No.2, Sonata for 2 Violins Op.56 by Sergei Prokofiev
  • Piano concerto No.2, Prelude No.5 by Sergei Rachmaninoff
  • Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega
  • Breakout by Swing Out Sister
  • Persephone by Tamino
  • Theme for Bioshock 1
  • Reflections by Toshifumi Hinata
  • Your Woman by White Town
  • Fantasia in D Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Nocturnal waltz - Johannes Bornlöf
  • O children - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds


Official Aesthetics Wiki playlist

The Aesthetics Wiki staff creates official Spotify playlists for aesthetics, which compile the songs most frequently featured on existing playlists dedicated to those aesthetics. This is the official Aesthetics Wiki Spotify playlist for dark academia: Dark Academia



  • An Unkindness of Ravens
  • Deadly Class
  • Fangs
  • Hooky
  • Morning Glories
  • Promethea
  • Purple Hyacinth
  • The Umbrella Academy
  • Unwritten
  • Your Throne
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The following list of sports are claimed as Dark Academia due to their connection with Preppy culture. Multiple preparatory, boarding schools, or aspiring Ivy League students are encouraged to involve themselves with these sports in order to create a diverse skill set. And as described in the Preppy page, many of these sports are obscure and would not be accessed by an average person.

  • Rowing
  • Fencing
  • Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Cricket
  • Rugby
  • Golf
  • Swimming
  • Polo
  • Equestrian sports
  • Running
  • Javelin, discus, wrestling while covered in oil (ancient Grecian Olympics)
  • Archery
  • Ballet, ballroom dancing, any traditional dance works
  • Pool (cue sports)


  • Chess
  • Croquet
  • Backgammon
  • Cards: rummy, poker, blackjack, speed, whist, etc.

Video Games

  • 1917: The Prologue
  • Alicemare
  • Alter Ego
  • Bloodborne
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Detention
  • Dishonored
  • GrimGrimoire
  • Layers of Fear
  • The Last Door Season 1
  • The Metamorphosis
  • The Room VR: A Dark Matter
  • Rusty Lake game series
  • Vampyr
  • What Never Was
  • Fran Bow


  • Realistic drawing
  • Calligraphy
  • Painting
  • Bookbinding


  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Places of historical interest
  • Pubs, bars, and cafés
  • Parks and gardens
  • Places of worship
  • Graveyards
  • Theaters
  • The opera
  • Concerts
  • Libraries
  • Art stores
  • Bookshops
  • Special events
  • Independent bookstores


  • Write essays
  • Research
  • Daydream
  • Read
  • Perform a play alone or to a pet
  • Play or practice an instrument
  • Fake your death
  • Draw or paint something
  • Reflect on the past
  • Journal
  • Admire cityscape/nature


Dark Academia fashion emphasizes a high-class but vintage form of dress which is an amalgamation of different historical periods. Usual fabric choices are more upscale, like cashmere, wool, and tweed, but linen and cotton are also very common. Accessories are usually minimal, like bracelets, rings, pendants, watches, cuff-links, and other dapper add-on pieces.

The main inspiration for Dark Academic fashion comes from 1940s prep school uniforms, as seen in blazers, pleated skirts, and regimental striped ties. Stereotypes surrounding humanities professors also influenced the fashion. Tweed blazers with elbow patches are one of the "essentials" of a Dark Academic wardrobe, as explained here. Elements of the 1950s suburban American preppy look are often incorporated, such as sweater vests or sweaters worn tied over the shoulders.

Much of the fashion takes its cues from Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which contains mentions of distinctive and unusual pieces, as well as fashion brands. Pince nez, black trench coats, green pinstripe sport jackets, Gucci, and Ralph Lauren are some examples of how her attention to imagery codified some fashion choices.

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Stores & Brands


  • Turtlenecks
  • Oxford shirts
  • Fisherman's sweaters
  • Sweater vests
  • Light blouses
  • Large polo necks
  • Cable knit jumpers
  • Sailor-collar shirts
  • Jumpers
  • Shirt dresses
  • A-Line dresses
  • Blousons
  • Drop waist dress
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  • Dress pants
  • Ankle pants
  • High rise pants
  • Trousers
  • Cigarette pants
  • Linen shorts
  • Tweed trousers
  • Plaid skirts
  • Mid-length or long skirts
  • Pinafores
  • Sailor skirts
  • Pleated skirts
  • Pencil skirts
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  • Cardigans
  • Blazers
  • Waistcoats
  • Pea coats
  • Suit jackets
  • Trenchcoats
  • Overcoats
  • Duffle coats
  • Chesterfield coat
  • Coat dresses
  • Smocks
  • Dark coloured apron


  • Oxfords/brogues
  • Loafers
  • Wingtips
  • Boat shoes
  • Dr. Martens
  • Mary Janes
  • Chelsea Boots


  • Silver or gold jewelry
  • Broaches
  • Simple rings
  • Satchel
  • Wire-frame glasses
  • Short, neat fingernails
  • Belts that match your shoes
  • Knee-high socks
  • Watches
  • Sweaters tied over the shoulders
  • Undone or loosely tied ties
  • Dark-colored umbrellas
  • Kerchiefs/bandanas



Discord Servers


Note: All references marked with personal communication is an interview. To view transcriptions, access to the Dark Academia interview file on the Aesthetics Wiki Google Drive, viewed here. Included in the file is the methodology, ethics guidelines, and reach of the interview, as described by the Aesthetics Wiki interviewer. If you want to participate in this project, please contact graviphantalia.
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