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How to Mix Blazers and Trousers

From left: Jacket ($925) by Boglioli, shirt ($165) by Gitman Brothers, pants ($375) by Canali, tie ($195) by Calvin Klein Collection, shoes ($598) by John Varvatos. Jacket ($1,175) by Boglioli, shirt ($125) by Polo Ralph Lauren, pants ($295) by Gant, tie ($225) by Ascot Chang Rugger, shoes ($880) by Hermes, pocket square ($30, set of 7) by Brooks Brothers. Jacket ($1,850) by Brioni, shirt ($245) by John Varvatos, pants ($615) by Brunello Cucinelli, tie ($205) by Louis Vuitton, shoes ($1,295) by Ermenegildo Zegna, pocket square ($40) by Paul Stuart.

Slipping into a perfectly tailored suit will put you at the top of your game, but it's not the only way to play. Smart pairings of well-cut blazers and trousers—what the Italians call spezzato—will showcase your individuality, especially when you're adding more bright colors in the warmer months. Done right, this mix-and-match approach will give you the fit and polish of a suit, with an extra dose of creativity.

It's not to be confused with sprezzatura—the Italian art of casual, devil-may-care elegance—but it's a close relative. Literally translated as "broken," spezzato refers to the pairing of a separate jacket and trousers to produce a look that's like a suit but less fussy and more adventurous. You'll see it more often on the streets of Milan than in New York, but "the concept of spezzato applies to men everywhere, across all ages," says the Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli. "This way of dressing keeps men looking young, contemporary, and chic. It is a look that can carry men from the office to dinner." This summer, take a page from the Italians and go spezzato.

Here, three tips on mastering the technique.

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From left: Jacket ($1,975, sold as suit) by Paul Smith, shirt ($545) by Louis Vuitton, pants ($605) by Brunello Cucinelli, tie ($155) by Ralph Lauren Black Label. Jacket ($1,475) by Dunhill, shirt ($325) by Hamilton, pants ($120) by Topman, tie ($150) by Dunhill. Jacket ($895) by Burberry London, shirt ($99) by Banana Republic, pants ($1,195, sold as suit) by BOSS, tie ($150) by Dunhill, pocket square ($35) by BOSS.

1. Go Light and Dark
Khaki and cream suits are warm-weather classics, but for a welcome change of pace, pair a darker blazer with lighter trousers, like this classic navy-and-beige combo. The reverse (see the gray-jacket-black-slacks outfit in photo at top) is also effective.

2. Play With Pattern—to a Point
It's a serious commitment to wear a pattern from head to toe. A jacket in plaid, stripes, or a bold graphic print lets you turn down the volume but still make a statement. You're generally better off going patterned upstairs, solid downstairs.

3. Don't be Afraid to Mix Proportions
You can wear a boxier, more structured jacket—like this double-breasted blazer—with trim trousers. Conversely, a fitted, cropped, single-breasted jacket can look surprisingly good with a roomier, even pleated, pair of pants.

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Spring Fashion 2013
Indigo, Navy, and Other Crucial Shades of Blue in Men's Suits
In Praise of Double-Breasted Suits

From top: Photos by Jennifer Livingston (2); photos courtesy of Tommy Ton/TrunkArchive.com (2).
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