Moody staring is a necessityOketa Zogi-Shala with permission for Varsity

Dark Academia: an aesthetic where depth meets pretence, akin to a scholarly Shakespearean comedy.

Embracing the enigmatic charm of Cambridge isn’t just about navigating its academic rigours. It’s about including the word epistemic in every conversation, even if you don’t know what it means. When it becomes tricky to find any tangible achievements within these hallowed walls, we resort to the fine art of romanticization. This is the essence of dark academia.

“Remember that your journey through Cambridge is, at its core, a theatrical performance”

But let’s indulge in a moment of self-reflection, shall we? Are we genuinely getting smarter here, or are we just really good at playing dress-up with tweed and pretending that we’re on the cusp of solving the world’s most profound mysteries?

Pretending to be enlightened by this paintingOketa Zogi-Shala with permission for Varsity

After reading “The Secret History,” I believed the former was happening. I found myself utterly convinced that I had become Camilla Macaulay, strolling around in my Docs, in the ultimate dark academia realm. Just like that, every step in those cobblestone streets became an echo of generations past. These shoes transformed beyond mere footwear. They became vessels of history, grounding me in a timeless tradition of knowledge-seeking and enlightenment (this is what I tell myself when walking to my supos).

“When it becomes tricky to find any tangible achievements within these hallowed walls, we resort to the fine art of romanticization”

This delusion is not a solitary pursuit, I have come to realise. Groups of students run around campus in oversized jackets, shouting Latin phrases they Googled five minutes ago. They fancy themselves as Cambridge’s very own Dead Poets Society, minus the charisma and poetic genius, of course. Their turtlenecks, in their minds, are a not-so-subtle nod to their sophistication and introspection. Enveloped in an aura of focus and contemplation, they are experts in looking busy while sipping overpriced lattes.

Meticulously chosen ties and waistcoats transform you from a mere mortal into a symbol of intellect – or at least, that’s what you tell yourself. Adjusting your tie or buttoning your waistcoat isn’t about comfort; it’s a dramatic gesture that signals your unwavering commitment to looking the part of a scholar. It’s as if your attire has magical powers that ward off anything remotely mundane and invite a false sense of scholarly enlightenment.

The belt adds a sense of pretentiousness to the most normal of jeansOketa Zogi-Shala with permission for Varsity

Tailored trousers are your trusty companions on this absurd journey. They stride with you, giving the illusion that you’re on a profound mission when you’re probably just headed to the library to read the same sentence for the tenth time. Each crease is not a sign of meticulous preparation but rather a mark of your determination to keep up this elaborate facade. Every cuff serves as a reminder of your dedication to a life filled with existential crises and caffeine-fueled all-nighters.

And don’t even get me started on the cardigans. These versatile garments somehow bridge the gap between looking smart and feeling cosy. As you slip into one, buttons delicately done up, you’re wrapped in a warm cocoon of, well, mostly delusion. You’re now ready to tackle the mysteries of the universe, or at least, the next chapter of your assigned reading.


Mountain View

Fresh Meat: the freshers week you don’t see

As autumn leaves continue to fall and the academic year unfolds, remember that your journey through Cambridge is, at its core, a theatrical performance. You’ve become a character in your own Shakespearean comedy, complete with dramatic monologues about the meaning of life and frequent soliloquies about your impending exams. In this world of make-believe profundity, you’re the lead actor, the writer, and the director of a play that few people outside Cambridge will ever see.

So there you have it, the key to surviving in Cambridge: pretending to be profound in a university that is often anything but.

Oketa Zogi-Shala with permission for Varsity