Aesthetics Wiki

Light Academia is an academic aesthetic and the visually lighter counterpart of Dark Academia.

Dark Academia typically involves intense and negative themes, including literary tragedy, existentialism, heartbreak, oppression, substance abuse, depression, and death. In contrast, Light Academia’s themes are generally positive, focusing on optimism, sensitivity, joy, gratitude, friendship, motivation, and happy endings.


Light Academia was created in a Tumblr text post by the user 'plantaires' on January 17, 2019. The user wrote, "you’ve heard of ‘dark academia’, now its time for ‘light’ academia… wearing light linen sundresses in foreign countries, eating picnics and pastries in the afternoon sun while reading poetry and laughing with your friends, the burning passion and excitement when you finally make a breakthrough in your research, falling asleep in your lovers arms sunkissed and happy… everything is beautiful and hopeful and no one dies."[1]

As there are no light academia tags, and as demonstrated through its propositional tone, this is the post that created the aesthetic. The dissemination of the term was largely a whim, and it was other users who expanded upon her idea, as opposed to deliberate aesthetic creation, as demonstrated by her confusion in the tags of another text post, where she wrote, "did I... accidentally coin a term?"[2]


Light Academia utilizes a neutral and desaturated color palette. White, beige/tan, ivory/cream, light brown, gold, and other pale colors make up the aesthetic. The photographs are taken in natural lighting, with generous sunshine, often overlapping with Golden Hour images.

Cozy and domestic imagery is a popular motif in Light Academia and contributes to the softer and more loving environment of the aesthetic. Unmade beds with books on the sheets, food (typically coffee, bread and fruit), and cluttered apartments are images that appear more often in Light Academia than Dark. Though rainy weather is embraced like in Dark Academia, calm, sunny weather is at the forefront.

Sculpture is always done in white marble and in the styles of Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical. Technique, such as in the illusion of flesh, psychological presence, diaphanous fabric and drapery, is admired. These sculptures are extremely popular because they fit into the Light Academia color palette easily.

The artworks utilized in light academia come from the periods typically associated with European civilization: Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Academic, Romantic, Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite periods are included. However, Light Academia does not emphasize these eras of painting as much as Dark Academia. Rather, Impressionist art, which uses a light color palette and images of middle class life and nature, making it an overall softer and welcoming atmosphere, is more popular.

Baroque, Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical architecture are featured frequently in light academic images, as most of the prestigious campuses, museums and libraries were built in this style. Rusticated stone, wrought iron fencing, white marble, classical columns and generous ornamentation are common traits shared among these spaces. In addition, Haussmannian apartments and streets (the "classic" Parisian stone buildings with white plaster molded interiors) contribute to the simultaneous elegant and comforting atmosphere.

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, etchings for chapter pages, 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.

Nature photography, often overlapping with Cottagecore, can appear. Fields of grass, bushes of flowers, crawling ivy, and orange groves are some examples. Like Cottagecore, these plants are controlled and mild.

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.


Light Academia is a style inspired by the love for knowledge, art, and literature. This aesthetic, encapsulating the ideal of a student immersed in their studies, focuses on the appreciation of self-expression through intellectual pursuit. It echoes the architectural beauty of classic university campuses, the romanticism of consuming literature in a sunlit library, and the allure of lively intellectual discussions.

Fashion-wise, Light Academia leans towards a blend of comfortable and sophisticated, a collegiate style with a refined twist. Key elements include neutral and earth tones, chunky knit sweaters, tailored trousers, vintage glasses, and a good pair of Oxford shoes. Think of a modern reinterpretation of an Oxford student strolling through the campus in the early spring, book in hand.


  • Blazers
  • Turtlenecks
  • Corduroy jackets
  • Cardigans
  • Cable knit sweaters/jumpers
  • Button up shirts/dress shirts
  • Sweater vests


  • Linen shorts
  • Dress pants
  • Cigarette pants
  • Skirts
  • Bell bottoms


  • Trench coats
  • Pea coats
  • Duffle coats
  • Overcoats
  • Waistcoats
  • Uniforms
  • Blazers
  • Wool Coat
  • Cable-knit sweater


  • Wingtips
  • Mary Janes
  • Doc Martens
  • Oxford shoes


  • Headbands
  • Glasses
  • Hair ribbons
  • Hair clips
  • Knee high or ruffle socks
  • Watches
  • Leather belts
  • Cufflinks
  • Brooches
  • Pearls
  • Berets


  • Browns
  • Cream
  • Rose
  • Burgundy
  • Green
  • Banana yellow
  • Navy blue
  • Beige
  • Off-white
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
  • Taupe
  • Camel

Patterns and Materials[]

  • Tweed
  • Corduroy
  • Plaid
  • Leather
  • Houndstooth
  • Gingham
  • Flannel
  • Tartan
  • Madras
  • Linen
  • Knit and crochet
  • Lace
  • Argyle
  • Cashmere
  • Silk/satin

Room Decor[]

  • Tea sets
  • Old photos
  • Mini statues
  • Candles
  • Vintage board games
  • Old-looking books
  • Record player
  • Old writing tools (fountain pens, dip pens)
  • Dried/pressed flowers
  • Bookshelves
  • Wood furniture and antique furniture (lighter shades)
  • Fancy, antique mirrors
  • Framed photos and art
  • World globes
  • Posters of classical artwork
  • Upholstered or tuft headboards
  • Old-looking papers


Like Dark Academia, Light Academia has strong visual roots in Post-Punk. This is particularly in reference to the lighter side of the genre which gave way to indie rock, dream pop, and shoegaze. (The Smiths and Morrissey especially could be considered a massive visual influence to the Light, Dark, and Romantic facets of Academia aesthetics.)


  • Baroque Pop
  • Dream Pop
  • Light Classical
  • Post-Punk
  • Shoegaze
  • Soft Rock

Post-Punk/Dream Pop[]

  • Lush
  • Morrissey
  • Pale Saints
  • The Dream Academy
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • The Ocean Blue
  • The Smiths
  • The Sundays
  • The Wake


  • Billie Holiday
  • Camille
  • Chet Baker
  • Chopin
  • Claude Debussy
  • Edith Piaf
  • Foxygen
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Johannes Bornlöf
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Laufey
  • Maurice Ravel
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Carpenters
  • The Ink Spots
  • The Supremes
  • Vince Guaraldi



  • Another Country (1984)
  • Dead Poets Society (1989)
  • School Ties (1992)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • Billy Elliot (2000)
  • Becoming Jane (2007)
  • The Harry Potter movie series (Only 1-4) (2001-2005)
  • The Emperor's Club (2002)
  • Maria Antoinette (2006)
  • Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
  • Much Ado About Nonthing (1993)
  • Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005)
  • Hugo (2011)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • The Beguiled (2017)
  • The Duchess (2008)
  • The Riot Club (2014)
  • Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
  • The African Doctor (2016)
  • In This Corner Of The World (2016)
  • Hidden Figures (2016)
  • First They Killed My Father (2017)
  • Indian Horse (2017)
  • Wonder (2017)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)
  • Nigerian Prince (2018)
  • Roma (2018)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind (2019)
  • Yes, God, Yes (2019)
  • Five Feet Apart (2019)
  • Tolkien (2019)
  • The Goldfinch (2019)
  • Lady J (2018)
  • Little Women (2019)
  • The Half Of It (2020)
  • Enola Holmes (2020)

TV Shows[]

  • Anne With An E
  • Bear in the Big Blue House
  • Between the Lions
  • The Crown
  • Dear White People
  • Derry Girls
  • Dickinson
  • Fleabag
  • Franklin
  • Gilmore Girls
  • I Am Not OK With This
  • The InBetweeners
  • Politician
  • The Queen's Gambit
  • A Series Of Unfortunate Events
  • Sex Education
  • Lark Rise to Candleford
  • High Fidelity
  • Bungou to Alchemist (anime/games) series


  • Circe - Madeline Miller
  • Emma - Jane Austen
  • Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  • Room on the Roof - Rusking Bond
  • The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
  • The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller


In general, it all is about the warm and positive, pleasurable parts of student life. Frequently used examples are:


  • Art galleries
  • Bakeries
  • Bookshops
  • Cafés
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Old buildings
  • Historic houses


  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Foraging
  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Picnics
  • Runs
  • Swimming
  • Walks


  • Archery
  • Badminton
  • Ballet
  • Boxing
  • Croquet
  • Fencing
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Ice skating
  • Lacrosse
  • Rugby
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Water polo


  • Board games
  • Card games

Liberal Arts[]

  • Learning an instrument
  • Visual arts
    • Calligraphy
    • Drawing
    • Painting
    • Photography
    • Sculpting
  • Literary arts
    • Poetry
    • Music
    • Letters
    • Note-taking
    • Language learning
    • Book writing
  • Culinary arts
    • Baking


  • Carpentry
  • Crochet
  • Knitting
  • Embroidery



Similar to Dark Academia, Light Academia involves an interest in literature, music, art, history, and learning. Light academia has been criticized for being Eurocentric and in its visuals, literary inspirations, and philosophical themes.[3] Many of the themes are classicist. Some proponents of Light Academia have attempted to combat this Eurocentrism by utilizing academic clothing from non-Western European cultures, and recommending, quoting, and discussing books by non-European, non-English-speaking, and non-white authors.

However, visuals from classical antiquity still play a significant role in Light Academia, and the Western canon are a significant part of the philosophy. Western architecture, including church buildings, libraries, museums, and universities, feature frequently in Light Academia images. Haussmann-era Paris and images of domesticity also differentiate Light from Dark Academia.

Romanticizing humanities[]

Analysts view Academia aesthetics as a romanticization of the humanities, as modern-day universities have become more and more expensive, as well as competitive. Humanities degrees are seen as luxuries reserved for the elite, with their low earning potential and high cost in comparison to more practical STEM degrees.[4] Critics view this romanticization as incorrect, citing that elite education is more accessible than ever with the modern internet, and that romanticists of liberal arts attribute meaning when there may not be meaning.[5][6]


External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.





Pinterest Boards[]







  1. plantaires (January 17, 2019 16:33). you’ve heard of ‘dark academia’, now its time for ‘light’ academia…. Tumblr. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.
  2. plantaires (November 15, 2019 05:33). did i...accidentally coin a term?. Tumblr. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.
  3. Isabella Dudley-Flores (April 24, 2021). The Dark Side of Dark Academia: a Critique of the Aesthetic. Teen Magazine. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.
  4. The Take (Jun2 8, 2021). What Dark Academia Says About Elite Education. YouTube. Retrieved June 8, 2023. Archived.
  5. Robin Waldun (Jun 30, 2022). The Dangers of Romanticizing The Liberal Arts - Problems with Dark Academia and Aesthetics. YouTube. Retrieved June 8, 2023. Archived.
  6. Robin Waldun (June 28, 2022). The Dangers of Romanticizing The Liberal Arts and the reality of the discipline. Medium. Retrieved June 8, 2023. Archived.
  7. @annasofiapark (April 12, 2019). AD Found this little collection of classic poems in a bookstore here in Tallinn, I've been carrying it around ever since ☕. Instagram. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.
  8. @vani.cloudy (December 15, 2022). 𝚃𝚊𝚕𝚔 𝙰𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚈𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚃𝙱𝚁. instagram. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.