Note: This article is an educational tool intended to improve the understanding of aesthetics. It is not about a particular aesthetic.
While all of these are referred to as suffixes, technically, in English, some are compound words (academia), some are purely suffixes (core, wave), and some are both (punk, goth). 'Kei' is usually used in English as a compound word, but because it is Japanese, it will not be categorized by English grammar.)
Note: If you are creating your own aesthetic, you do not necessarily have to put a suffix on the end of it to make it an aesthetic.
Academia is a group of aesthetics that involve learning, particularly through study, research, and reading. Different academic sub-aesthetics take and leave different bits, and do not focus solely on studying what’s assigned today like Studyblr. The look of older universities, for example, Oxford University, are included. As is styles of dress associated with academia like “librarian chic.” There is also a literary tradition, which is of books set inside academic spaces, especially with conflicts.
The general aesthetic has often focused visually on 19th - 20th-century boarding school, however, the first aesthetic to become its own was Dark Academia, around 2014. Because of its distinctive darker edge in its view of life, Light Academia was then created.
According to r/Light Academia it “is an aesthetic that is the opposite of Dark Academia. It involves enjoying the little things in life, the outdoors, enjoying the company of others, and the comfort of the ones around you.” However, they still share many elements of style with dark academia and are thereby included under the Academia suffix.
Core implies a system, a set of rules. Therefore it's supposed to enforce a general topic, not something specific. Also sometimes aesthetics already have a name and putting a suffix doesn't make sense. Rephrase it as "the key of [thing]" This is generally the most overused of all the suffixes.
Goth is a subculture that branched out of late punk in the 1980s. The history is long and complicated and is often disagreed over. Therefore we will link to this page if you would like to learn more. They have multiple connections to different music genres, literature, and other forms of media. Dark clothes, Victorian and Edwardian era inspiration in clothing, make up, and decoration. However, it also has many branches of the aesthetic. Goth is used more as an umbrella term.
Kei (系) is a Japanese suffix that is mainly used in the sense of "type", and can describe anything ranging from the theme of an outfit to a personality type. However, the western usage of the suffix started because the names of many Japanese styles would sound too vague in direct translation, the most notorious example of that being the Japanese "fairy fashion" (フェアリーファッション) which is referred to as "fairy kei" outside of Japan.
The punk suffix is usually either related to Punk, the movement characterized by rejecting social norms, or it is a subgenre of speculative fiction.
The origin of this suffix originated with the punk movement in the 1970s. It was then adapted for the Cyberpunk genre, thus cementing punk as a suffix.
Cyberpunk later evolved many sub-variants which then morphed into separate and identifiable subgenres of speculative fiction. These usually took the form of a world built around a certain specific technology. For example, Steampunk which is based on steam-powered machines, or Dieselpunk, where all the machines are diesel-powered. These usually take on features popular during the time period from which the technology comes, for instance, Steampunk has Victorian themes and Dieselpunk is 1940-50s themed.
Some aesthetics with the punk suffix that are not speculative fiction or relating to the values of the Punk subculture may be:
- Based on the visual elements of Cyberpunk or Punk, such as Pastel Punk. Cyberprep has also been added to the punk suffix list due to its close connection with Cyberpunk.
- Seapunk or one of its derivatives. Although it does draw upon elements of Punk's rebellious attitudes and far-left political values (which has led to many refer to Seapunk as "proto-Vaporwave"), it was generally considered something of a joke aesthetic when it first entered the scene.
- Sometimes, in place of Punk, Grunge will be used instead, since Grunge has a similar philosophy to Punk but just evolved for '90s sensibilities instead of the '70s, which was Punk's heyday, and generally has a more down-to-Earth look instead of the over-the-topness of Punk. A popular example of this would be Ocean Grunge (which was, in itself, derived from Seapunk).
The Wave suffix, generally, deals with surreal or unrealistic imagery (such as seen with Synthwave and Vaporwave) or are grounded in reality but can create some really strange imagery in the real world (such as seen with Glowwave), but in both instances, the "-wave" suffix is generally used to draw upon themes of nostalgia and overall nostalgic surrealism (specifically, 80's and 90's nostalgia).
- Reefwave was so named because of the imagery in the word "wave."
Does An Aesthetic Fit This Suffix?
A desire to learn is embedded in the aesthetic. One does not need to be currently attending a college, school, or university. But if one is not interested in learning, then a new aesthetic is not an Academia one. Individuals can enjoy the look without following this, but a new Academia aesthetic cannot be made without learning, being involved in some way.
The use of an older style of western academic is currently the main visual focus. However, an academia style need not be western at all. If you want to create an aesthetic surrounding Indian, Korean, or Japanese studying, around schools in Turkey, go for it!
As this is a suffix of the Japanese language, it is required for an aesthetic or style to originate from Japan. In general, to avoid misunderstandings, it is recommended to make a background search in Japanese to see if a term exists, and to make sure that it refers to what you think it does, as the suffix is often used in a completely different, sometimes even negative, context (for example, "emo kei" is not referring to "emo fashion" but the negative stereotype of someone behaving "emo").