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In many cases, the clothes people wear identify them as belonging to a particular social class.

In many cases, the clothes people wear identify themselves as belonging to a particular social class.

What is more natural, idiomatic or preferred between 'them' vs 'themselves' if you are a native English speaker?

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The first states that the clothes worn by people identify them (=the people wearing the clothes) as belonging to a social class. This makes sense. In some societies, people belong to social classes.

The second states that clothes worn by people identify themselves (=the clothes) as belonging to a social class. This makes no sense.

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    I don't disagree, but I think you could clarify why "themselves" refers back to "clothes" and not to "people." I believe it is because "clothes" is the subject of the sentence. If you recast the sentence as "People often wear clothes that identify themselves as part of a particular class," then "themselves" refers back to "people," and thus would make sense.
    – trlkly
    Dec 8, 2022 at 15:35
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    Or, if you want to focus on the people: "In many cases, people identify themselves as belonging to a particular social class through the clothes they wear" or "...people choose clothing to identify themselves as belonging..."
    – Jim Davis
    Dec 8, 2022 at 16:56
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    Although I recognized the second sentence as sounding wrong, it didn't occur to me that "themselves" referred to the clothes. Probably because identifying oneself is something that normally only a person can do, so I intuitively attached it to the people.
    – Barmar
    Dec 8, 2022 at 17:40
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Tough question. Even as a native speaker, I originally disagreed with the accepted answer. But the reason that it's correct becomes clear if you explicitly add the implied (but missing) "that" within the sentence.

In many cases, the clothes that people wear identify them as belonging to a particular social class.

This makes it clear that the sentence could be simplified (noun-verb-object) to:

The clothes identify them as belonging to a social class.

That is obviously referring to people, whereas if you used "themselves", you would end up with

The clothes identify themselves as belonging to a social class.

Which shows that the accepted answer is precisely correct.

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