Whether you still like J.K Rowling or not, you have to admit that the Harry Potter book series has become, and is still, the most famous book series of recent decades. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a charming tale of how a young orphan boy becomes the greatest hero of a fantasy world filled with wizards, witches, and magic.
The popularity of the book series gave rise to a generation of children, now adult Millennials, sorting themselves into Harry Potter houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Harry Potter Tumblr fandoms would later create some of the first internet aesthetics, posting mood boards that contain color swatches, quotes, outfits, and objects that in the 2010s onwards would be widely recognized as an ‘aesthetic’.
Arguably the most opulent of these Harry Potter Hogwarts school aesthetics was the Slytherin aesthetic, a style modeled after the Slytherin house.
The Slytherin Aesthetic: A Proto-Dark Academia Aesthetic
There’s a new trend among Gen Z on TikTok: making fun of Millennials. A good portion of the mockery that Millennials are getting is because of how obsessed the generation was, and still is, with identifying with their Hogwarts house the way Gen Z does these days with their natal charts.
But despite that mockery, few can deny that the Slytherin aesthetic was the pre-Dark Academia aesthetic before we even had Dark Academia. Back in ye olden days before TikTok, it was the Slytherin aesthetic that filled Tumblr feeds with romantic and deliciously gothic images of antique books, bespoke coats, and fancy feather quills.
The Slytherin aesthetic was the first to bring 19th-century boarding school visuals back to the mainstream parallel to Victorian literature communities that the Harry Potter fandom shared the Tumblr e-space with.
The popularity of the Slytherin aesthetic coincided with the short-lived vintage trend of the early 2010s and later, the trend of thrifting clothes and restyling them for a more modern fit that kept a distinct old-world charm. That said, the days of the Slytherin aesthetic and its adjacent vintage trends may be numbered due to the rapid return of early 2000s fashion. If you ask me though, the early 2000s were a fashion war crime. Like seriously, who even looks good with a whale tail? Only Britney Spears. So, let’s raid our closets and preserve the vintage fashion trend by picking apart the building blocks of the Slytherin aesthetic.
Building Blocks of the Slytherin Aesthetic
Dark Greens and Blacks
An outfit isn’t up to code for the Slytherin aesthetic if it doesn’t sport the right house colors. The Slytherin house’s aesthetic calls for green and silver, its official house colors. But the aesthetic is fairly flexible and allows for greens, silvers, blacks, and grays. Not neon shades of green, though, that’s definitely not very Slytherin. So, what colors could fit the Slytherin aesthetic?
Acceptable shades of green include basil green, pine, juniper, Sacramento, emerald, and fern. Yes, all leaning towards the darker end of the color spectrum. Black and silver are self-explanatory but grays, surprisingly enough, actually come in different shades, some of which fit the aesthetic better than others. A good shade of gray, that borders on green, is artichoke as well as laurel. Pewter, lava, and charcoal gray would look amazing as a vest under an unbuttoned black pea coat combined with an emerald green scarf.
Can you picture it yet? Peak Slytherin aesthetic. Speaking of coats.
Well-Fitting Coats and Buttoned Shirts
The Slytherin aesthetic favors classic coat styles that use fabrics such as wool and tweed. But maybe you’re feeling particularly fancy and you have money to burn. In that case, extra Slytherin aesthetic points to you. Other suitable fabrics would be mohair, a fuzzy fabric spun from the fleece of the Angora goat, as well as faux fur and vintage fur. I say vintage, in particular, because we don’t support animal cruelty in this house.
Since the Slytherin aesthetic is strongly Old World inspired, the use of obviously synthetic fabrics, like the shiny polyester of windbreakers, are a big no no. Windbreakers themselves wouldn’t suit the aesthetic as the look makes use of coat styles such as a frock, pea, trench, cape, and capelet.
The most basic button-up shirt that would suit the Slytherin aesthetic is a well-fitting dress shirt or a polo shirt if it’s particularly hot out. If you’d like to be as extra as possible, like a good Slytherin student, you could go for a shirt with bishop sleeves or a poet blouse. Silver and emerald cuff links are optional but highly recommended.
Bespoke shoes are a quintessentially Slytherin aesthetic staple. That said, bespoke shoes can be expensive, running anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. What can we mere Mudbloods do to emulate the high fashion of the Slytherin aesthetic? Find knockoffs, of course.
Formal shoe styles that match the Slytherin aesthetic include derbies, oxfords, brogues, monks, and loafers. Mary Janes are also on the table. The material should be leather but genuine leather is pricey and potentially unethical if it isn’t bought used. An affordable alternative would be synthetic leather, sometimes called vegan leather, which looks pretty much like the real thing.
Emery Rose, a SHEIN brand, carries several cheap alternatives such as this gorgeous pair of synthetic croc leather heels. Admittedly, SHEIN is fast fashion but fast doesn’t always mean bad value. Plus, not everyone is loaded enough to be boycotting fast fashion. Anything lasts long enough with proper care so just be sure to buy staples that you’re sure you’ll wear.
Last but not least, a Slytherin aesthetic outfit is topped off with silver accessories. Top vintage picks include signet rings, pocket watches, locket necklaces, and cuff links.
The cuff links make a nice finishing touch for your Slytherin aesthetic dress shirt. Locket necklaces, with pictures of Draco Malfoy in them, make a good addition to complement your Slytherin house scarf.
The weirder picks for the Slytherin aesthetic are pocket watches and signet rings so let me explain. Pocket watches were the wristwatches of the 19th century. They remained a staple accessory all the way into the early 1900s after which World War I soldiers, who wore what were then called ‘trench watches’, helped popularize the style. Other than that, a pocket watch is the same principle but on a chain.
Signet rings on the other hand are a delight if you’re dedicated to your Slytherin aesthetic. Signet rings feature family crests or even your own initials embossed onto the ring’s surface to serve as a seal for wax letters. It’s deliciously Dark Academia. Several Etsy sellers have their own version of the Slytherin signet ring which you can check out here.
Is the Slytherin Aesthetic Problematic?
When we move past the Slytherin aesthetic and look at the values and ideals of the Slytherin house itself, not to mention the author of the Harry Potter series, things start to unravel a little.
In our series of aesthetic articles, we’ve always touched upon the less than savory associations of these seemingly ‘just for fun’ aesthetics. The Slytherin aesthetic is particularly suspect due to its association with the Slytherin house, which is basically Hogwarts’ club of aristocratic elites who are openly racist toward other wizards and witches who don’t hold the status of a pureblood.
For the ones who haven’t actually read Harry Potter, pureblood is a classification given to witches and wizards that come from families that don’t have non-magical, human heritage. Many of these pureblood families are allied with the Death Eaters, a group that follows the big bad Lord Voldemort in a quest to rid the Wizarding World of what they call “mudbloods.”
“Mudblood” is a slur in the world of Harry Potter that is used to degrade wizards and witches who have a regular ‘Muggle’ parent or two. It’s the fantasy equivalent of a racial slur and the interactions that members of the Slytherin house in the books with “mudbloods” are heavily coded with racism. Or maybe not even coded, it’s explicitly racist but with ‘not magical’ as the stand-in for ‘not white’.
It certainly doesn’t help that members of Slytherin house support the ethnic purging of mudbloods and their deportation from the Wizarding World. Figure out the issues with that one.
Even without the racist implications that the Slytherin house, and by extension, the Slytherin aesthetic has, among the most valued traits of members of Slytherin is cunning and shrewdness. Giving Slytherin the benefit of the doubt, we could assume they mean being very clever or maybe street smart. But it isn’t. The Sorting Hat explicitly sings that the Slytherin house’s brand of smarts isn’t above nepotism, corruption, or just screwing every mudblood over.
“Or perhaps in Slytherin, you’ll make your real friends. Those cunning folk use any means
to achieve their ends.” Talk about big yikes.
While most aesthetics have a deeper life philosophy and unique view of the world that deserve emulation, the Slytherin aesthetic is definitely not one of them. So, if you’re looking to dress up in the Slytherin aesthetic, just wear the brogues and leave the not-so-ideal ideals at the door.