Five exquisite ways to luxuriate in the dark academia aesthetic

ILLUSTRATION: Kelly Chia / The Peak

By: Max Lorette, Peak Associate and Portrait Holder of Dorian Gray

Have you recently finished reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt? Has the slow ascension of summer made you yearn for the cool breeze of autumn? Do you revel in enforcing your superiority complex over your fellow scholars? Then you may be swept up in the warm embrace of the dark academic aesthetic. I implore you to ask yourself, “Is this the right aesthetic for me?”

Allow me to assist you in achieving such an esteemed lifestyle. I insist you forget that this movement is deeply rooted in classism, colonialism, and western-eurocentrism. There is little use in dwelling upon . . . unpleasantries. We do not believe in personal analysis here.

Embark with me upon a riveting journey in caffeine overload, tweed jackets, and academic burnout! You don’t need to attend a gothic university in order to achieve such a curated aesthetic. Read on and discover how best to live a prep school-esque lifestyle from the comfort of SFU! Who needs classical and gothic architecture when you have a style of architecture commonly compared to a prison?


  1. I hope you feel honoured that I am divulging my greatest secret to you: my study spot. I urge you to study ONLY in the catacombs of the RCB. There is little as inspiring as the endless labyrinth of blood-red floors and melancholic concrete walls. Remember, if you have a cell phone signal, you aren’t deep enough. Though I, too, struggle with romanticizing such bland architecture, the perfect study playlist will surely assist you in immersing yourself in your studies. May I suggest my own curation of symphonies? Of course you would like to listen.
Spotify playlist screenshot. Playlist titled, "Studying in Solitude" and captioned, "im literally the smartest person here" by Max. All the songs in the playlist are "Achilles Come Down" by Gang of Youths.

Indulge your ears here on my highly curated Spotify playlist.

2. Upon submitting your written masterpieces to your professor, be certain to put some thought into its material presentation. Tea stains and coffee cup rings will make it appear as if they received a document from an academic straight out of the 40s! Better yet, type everything out through a vintage typewriter! Frankly, it is my firm belief that Microsoft Word is the single utmost inhibitor of creativity, and that analog is the best method forward. If your professor complains, you’re probably more intelligent than them anyhow. 

3. My dearest pupil, take it from me. The simplest way to assert your academic dominance over your peers is through constantly making unfounded and often irrelevant literary references! Don’t know any? Make them up! Attribute any and all quotations to the likes of Shakespeare, Gandhi, John Lennon, and Karl Marx. Want to appear well-read? Reference Greek mythology (naturally, the endallbeall of ancient civilizations)! Don’t know anything about the Hellenic period beyond what you read from Percy Jackson? Me neither!

4. Never be seen without a yellowed book in your clutches. It is essential that people never forget how well-read you are. As quoted from a little-known book, Norwegian Wood by the unsung literary genius Haruki Murakami, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Thus, I have made it my mission to provide you with my favourite underground novels to assert your intelligence over all those around you. No need to thank me!

The Illiad by Homer Simpson

Pride and Prejudice by Britney Spears

Animal Farm by Elon Musk

The Grapes of Wrath by Rihanna


And of course…

War and Peace by Meryl Streep


5. Finally, perhaps the most vital way to achieve the dark academia lifestyle is to have a thesaurus beside you at all times. Are you struggling to find the perfect word to fabricate the facade of intelligence? Choose a synonym. It doesn’t need to make sense. As long as it’s long, you will appear all the more intelligent. Make it sound as though you are trying to hit the word count in real-life conversations. No, I haven’t been doing this the whole time I’ve been writing this article and I am frankly insulted that you would insinuate so!

This is a way of life that is as beautiful as a rare volume, as intricate as a Baroque fresco, and as sustainable as a dual-ended candle burning into itself. And I sincerely hope to further indoctrinate you all, dearest readers, into my exclusive academic cult club.


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