To the OP ... if your family is in sweats for their backyard grill ... you might get away wth khaki trousers and a linen shirt ... but anything more is going to be very out of place. And take care not to draw attention to what you are wearing ... especially the fact that you have elected to dress differently.
Originally Posted by Svenn
I think the ethos outside big cities is that dressing well outside of work has no purpose because no one sees you except for the immediate circle you're hanging out with... whereas in packed NYC like a hundred people probably glance in your direction when you just go to the store and back. If your family is having a backyard grill, there's no reason, and it is pretentious, to show up in new england lounge attire while they're in sweatpants. Mind you I'm in a town of 1500 people hours away from even a walmart, so I know how it is. Don't be like the others on this forum who force their extravagant dressings on others in inappropriate circumstances.
One, if a person dresses only for those who glance his direction -- be he in New York or Cooter Slough -- he is dressing for a poor reason.
Two, not all areas qualifying as "outside big city" are the same. Just because the "ethos" in your hamlet has residents putting little effort into how they dress because no one will see them ... or those with whom they "hang" also fail to put effort into how they dress ... well ... this doesn't mean everyone who lives in a small town or rural area lives this way.
Three, no one wears a New England lounge suit to a backyard grill because everyone -- including those in New England cities -- knows or should know that such attire is completely inappropriate for the occasion.
Four, I am, mind you, more than an hour's ride by boat (or short flight by float plane) from the nearest town of any consequence -- there is, in fact, no incorporated town on our island -- and yet most people here dress appropriately for the occasion. That means casual dress (i.e. cotton trousers, madras shirt, perhaps a linen coat or cotton sweater) when invited to a friend's home for a backyard grill. Sweats won't cut it ... not even amoung relatives.
As for the nearest Walmart ... I haven't a clue. I've never been to one. Now COSTCO ... that I can tell you; it's about an hour and ten minutes away.