United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1990 HQ Rulings > HQ 0085626 - HQ 0085755 > HQ 0085626

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 085626

December 21, 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 085626 NLP


TARIFF NO.: 6405.90.90

Mr. John M. Peterson
Neville, Peterson & Williams
39 Broadway, Suite 2201
New York, New York 10006

RE: Classification of bowling shoes

Dear Mr. Peterson:

Your letter dated August 24, 1989, addressed to our New York office concerning the tariff classification of rental and resale bowling shoes made in Taiwan, has been referred to this office for a direct reply to you. Three samples were submitted for examination.


The merchandise in question consists of rental and resale bowling footwear. Three representative samples were submitted:

Style P-920: is a women's rental bowling shoe with a velcro closure. It is composed of a soft, chrome- tanned leather sole, a specially designed rubber heel, and an upper composed almost entirely of polyvinyl chloride plastic. Two eyelets on the side of each shoe provide special ventilation for the wearer's foot. The upper features special padding around the opening, as well as reinforced stitching to hold the tongue of the shoe to the upper. The shoe's size appears on the outside of the shoe's heel. The shoe's upper has three contrasting colors: red, blue and beige.

Style S-410: is a men's lace-on type rental bowling shoe. It features a soft, chrome-tanned leather sole, and a specially designed rubber heel. The shoe's upper is composed of vinyl which is covered with a plastic flocking material that gives the shoe a sueded
appearance. Two eyelets on the side of the shoe provide extra ventilation for the wearer's foot. The shoe's size appears on the outside of the shoe's heel. The shoe's upper features three different colors: blue, gold and grey.

Style C-2000: is a men's lace-on type rental bowling shoe. It features a soft, chrome-tanned leather sole, and a specially designed rubber heel. The upper is composed of polyvinyl chloride vinyl. A series of holes on each side of the shoe provides ventilation for the wearer's foot. The shoe's size is sewn on the back heel. The upper features three colors: brown, tan and black. Like the other styles, the C-2000 rental bowling shoe features special reinforcement around the toe and at the point where the tongue is attached to the upper.


Whether the bowling shoes are considered "Sports Equipment" classifiable in Chapter 95 or as "Footwear" classifiable in Chapter 64?


Classification under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined in accordance with the terms of the headings and any relevant section or chapter notes.

Legal Note 1(g) to Chapter 95, HTSUS, states:

1. This chapter does not cover:

(g) Sports Footwear (other than skating boots with ice or roller skates attached ) of chapter 64, or sports headgear of chapter 65.

Subheading Note 1 to Chapter 64 states:

1. For the purposes of subheadings 6402.11, 6402.19, 6403.11. 6403.19 and 6404.11, the expression "sports footwear" applies only to:

(a) Footwear which is designed for a sporting activity and has, or has provision for the attachment of spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars or the like.

(b) Skating boots, ski-boots and cross-country ski footwear, wrestling boots, boxing boots and cycling shoes.

It is clear that the bowling shoes are not within the definition of "Sports Footwear" pursuant to Subheading Note 1 to Chapter 64. The question to be decided is whether Legal Note 1(g) to Chapter 95 should be interpreted as being limited to the articles listed in Subheading Note 1 to Chapter 64.

It should be noted that the definition of "Sports Footwear" in Chapter 64 is a subheading note, defining "Sports Footwear" only for the purposes of 5 headings. It is not a chapter note. This is quite unusual in the Harmonized System. It is our observation that the point of this is that there is footwear which is excluded from Chapter 95 as "Sports Footwear" and is included in Chapter 64, but is not "Sports Footwear" for the purposes of those five headings. It appears that the drafters of the Harmonized System wanted to be absolutely sure that the items covered by those 5 headings were unquestionably "Sports Footwear" and were willing to leave out some others in the process. For example, the ultra light racing shoes worn by marathon runners are used only in the sport of marathon/road racing (and, to a limited extent in training for it). However, they are clearly not "Sports Footwear" for the 5 headings, but it is even clearer that they are classified in Chapter 64. It is our view that the same principle applies here, even though the bowling shoes are even less capable of use outside its sport than the marathon racing shoe.

In your papers, you argue that since automatic bowling alley equipment is classified by name in HTS 9504 among "Articles of Funfair, Table or Parlour games" and not in HTS 9506 as "Articles and Equipment for Gymnastics Athletics, other Sports (including Table Tennis) or Outdoor Games, not Specified or included elsewhere in this chapter...", bowling is not a "sport" and therefore, bowling shoes are not "sports footwear" for the purposes of the exclusion from Chapter 95. It is clear to us that Bowling is a sport. If we were to follow this reasoning, we would likewise need to conclude that fishing and hunting (provided for in heading 9507) are also not sports, an erroneous conclusion merely because they are not classifiable in Heading 9506.

Additionally, you indicate that the fact that bowling shoes are typically sold to bowling alley proprietors, rather than sold to the bowlers at retail, demonstrates that they are bowling alley equipment. However, the fact that many, although not the majority, are sold to individuals indicates that they are unlike normal automatic bowling equipment. More importantly, the way they are sold does not change the fact that they are footwear which is clearly excluded from Chapter 95 to its more specific description in Chapter 64.

Furthermore, you argue that bowling shoes are specialized equipment that either improve the bowler's performance and/or prevent damage to the surface he is on. This is also true of many types of footwear. For example, Astro Turf shoes for football improve the player's performance and prevent damage to the surface he is on. These facts would not prevent either the Astro Turf shoes or the bowling shoes from being classified as footwear.

Finally, we do note that not all sports related items that cover the foot are excluded from Chapter 95. For example, water skis (which usually have a rubber foot stirrup attached) are classifiable in subheading 9506.29.0020; skating boots with skates permanently attached are classifiable in subheading 9506.70; snowshoes are classifiable in subheading 9506.99.50; and divers' flippers are also named in the Explanatory Notes as being covered by heading 9506. However, all these items derive their essential character from an element of the item which is separate and distinct from the portion which covers the foot. In contrast, the bowling shoes do derive their essential character from the portion that covers the foot. The bowling shoes perform traditional footwear functions, like protecting the wearer's foot and providing traction as the bowler bowls. Therefore, the bowling shoes are classifiable in Chapter 64 as footwear.


It is Custom's position that the bowling shoes are classifiable in Chapter 64, not Chapter 95. They are classifiable in subheading 6405.90.90, which provides for Other footwear: Other: Other, whose uppers are of rubber or plastics and whose outer soles are leather. The rate of duty is 12.5% ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: