But the artist insists designer names aren't a foreign language. He has a large collection of vintage and has been studying high fashion for years. Until recently, he's only worn it for red-carpet events, but now he's breaking it out for his concerts, as well.
"I'm not that everyday suit kind of guy, but after playing at such ornate theaters, I decided I wanted to dress up. This is a new step for me, wearing suits on stage," says Harper, who has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. "I have always been a big fan of Lanvin custom-tailored suits, and this tour gave me an excuse to wear them. In the past, my gear both onstage and off was one and the same."
Harper's previous look, which he calls "modern California vintage," consisted of organic cotton hoodies, baggy jeans and hats to cover up his wild, curly locks. He can't say whether his fans dress like him or he dresses like his fans, but he's willing to take credit for one of the demographic's biggest fads: cargo pants. "I was doing that in the early Nineties before they were everywhere," he claims.
As one who "respects the art of fashion and appreciates it," Harper wants to take risks and push the envelope in terms of his personal style. "I'll go thrift and I'll do Madison Avenue. There are no boundaries as far as cost or demographic. I just go for what I like."
He continues, "To me, clothing design is a fine art. You should take the opportunity to use fashion as a creative statement. It's part of your entire body of work creatively. It represents your aesthetic."
Musically, Harper's aesthetic is an acoustic sound with an old-school feel. His inspiration for the soulful, warm album "Lifeline" was a traveling musician's journal, he says. "It's not just a journal about myself, but I write about ideas, experiences and things I read that I think are good ideas. As a songwriter, you have got to be part biographer, autobiographer and part journalist."