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HQ 952370

September 22, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 952370 SK


TARIFF NO.: 6110.20.2065

Elon A. Pollack
Politis, Pollack & Doram
3255 Wilshire Blvd., ste.1688
Los Angeles, CA 90010

RE: Classification of a man's all-white 100% knit cotton V-neck upper body garment; T-shirt of heading 6109, HTSUSA v. pullover of heading 6110, HTSUSA; EN to heading 6109; Textile Category Guidelines, CIE, 36/79 and CIE 6/87; HRL 084849 (2/23/90); United States v. C.J. Tower & Sons of Buffalo, N.Y., 48 CCPA 87, C.A.D. 770 (1961); EN not applicable where they disregard a garment's common and commercial identity; T-shirts do not have long sleeves; heading 6110, HTSUSA.

Dear Mr. Pollack:

This is in response to your inquiry of May 21, 1992, requesting the tariff classification of a men's V-neck upper body garment. A sample was submitted to this office for examination.


Style 1111 is a men's all-white V-neck upper body garment which is constructed from 100% cotton, finely knit jersey. Based upon Customs laboratory analysis, the fabric weight is 171.5 grams per square meter. The garment features a rib knit, crew neckline, close-fitting, hemmed long sleeves, and a hemmed bottom.

The garment will be imported from the People's Republic of China.


Whether a long sleeved upper body garment is properly classifiable as a T-shirt under heading 6109, HTSUSA?


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

At issue is whether a long sleeved upper body garment is classifiable as a T-shirt under the HTSUSA. Heading 6109, HTSUSA, provides for T-shirts, singlets, tank tops and similar garments, knitted or crocheted. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, although not legally binding, are the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. The EN state in pertinent part:

"The term 'T-shirts' means lightweight knitted or crocheted garments of vest type, of cotton or man-made fiber, not napped, nor of pile or terry fabric, in one or more colours, with or without pockets, with long or short close-fitting sleeves, without buttons or other fastenings, without collar, without opening in the neckline, having a close- fitting or lower neckline (round, square, boat-shaped or V-shaped). These garments may have decoration, other than lace, in the form of advertising, pictures or an inscription in words, obtained by printing, knitting or other process. The bottom of these garments, usually hemmed, is never made with a ribbed waistband, drawstring or other means of tightening."

The EN to this heading state that garments with long or short close-fitting sleeves may be classified within heading 6109, HTSUSA, as T-shirts. This language, however, is a substantial deviation from Customs' previous definition of T-shirts under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUSA) which was replaced by the HTSUSA in January 1989. Previous definitions of T-shirts, in use for classifications under the TSUSA, were more specific and precluded long sleeved garments from being classified as T-shirts. This view was in accordance with the Textile Category Guidelines existing at the time, CIE 1998/64, and numerous dictionary definitions, a sampling of which follows:

The Random House College Dictionary, (1968), defines a T-shirt as "a lightweight shirt, close-fitting and with a round neckline and short sleeves...

The Living Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary, (1975), defines a T-shirt as "a collarless, lightweight, short sleeved pullover shirt of cotton...

The Oxford American Dictionary, (1980), defines a T-shirt as "a short sleeved shirt having the shape of a T...

Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary, (1984), defines a T-shirt as "a short sleeved, collarless men's undershirt...

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, (1992), defines a T-shirt as "a short sleeved collarless undershirt... . [emphasis added]

The similarity of the above definitions is convincing evidence that the universally accepted definition of T-shirts encompasses short sleeved shirts only. Moreover, as the court established in United States v. C.J. Tower & Sons of Buffalo, N.Y., 48 CCPA 87, C.A.D. 770 (1961), "tariff terms are to be construed in accordance with their common and commercial meanings."

The EN to heading 6109, HTSUSA, and the current Textile Category Guidelines, CIE 6/87, which use wording taken directly from the EN to heading 6109, HTSUSA, allow the classification of long sleeved upper body garments as T-shirts. This goes directly against the well-established commercial reality of what constitutes T-shirts in the trade of the United States. This is evidenced not only by the uniformity of the dictionary definitions of T-shirts set forth supra, but also by how these sort of garments are marketed both in this country and abroad. For example, modified styles of basic T-shirts, which are frequently seen in the fashion world today, are usually advertised using an adjective which emphasizes the modified feature (i.e., "over-sized tee", "long sleeved tee", "pique knit tee"). These adjectives are necessary to inform the consumer in which way the garment differs from the commonly known and recognized garment identified as a T-shirt. The European market also recognizes the basic shape and styling of the American T- shirt as evidenced by an article in the trade magazine Hosiery and Underwear, July 1991, which shows a British packaging label for T-shirts which reads "2 Authentic American Styles T Shaped Vests" and depicts traditional short sleeved T-shirts.

The above is persuasive evidence that T-shirts are commonly and commercially known as basic, knit, collarless, short sleeved garments. This office recognizes the significance of the EN and the fact that they represent the official interpretation of the nomenclature. However, in situations such as this where strict
adherence to the EN would result in a classification which contradicts how a garment is commonly and commercially recognized in the United States, we are of the opinion that the U.S. commercial practice should control. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 084849, dated February 23, 1990. Consequently, we believe that Customs' previous practice under the TSUSA of limiting T-shirts to short sleeved garments should be continued under the HTSUSA, the EN to heading 6109, HTSUSA, notwithstanding.


Style 1111 is classifiable under subheading 6110.20.2065, HTSUSA, which provides for men's or boys' knitted pullovers of cotton with a duty rate of 20.7% ad valorem. The textile quota category is 338.

The designated textile and apparel categories may be subdivided into parts. If so, the visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available we suggest you check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an internal issuance of the U.S. Customs Service which is updated weekly and is available for inspection at your local Customs office.

Due to the nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact your local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director

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