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HQ 952530

June 9, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 952530 jb


TARIFF NO.: 6109.10.0070

Robert T. Stack, Esquire
Siegel, Mandell & Davidson, P.C.
One Astor Plaza
1515 Broadway, 43rd Fl.
New York, NY 10036

RE: Women's knit garment; long, close fitting sleeves; classifiable as similar to a T-shirt; heading 6109, HTSUSA

Dear Mr. Stack:

This is in reply to your letter, dated August 17, 1992, on behalf of your client, Liz Claiborne, Inc., requesting a binding classification ruling for a woman's two piece set (Style 1031757) consisting of a pullover and a jumper. Our New York office issued you New York Ruling Letter (NY) 877189, dated August 28, 1992, addressing the jumper. This ruling will thus concern itself only with the pullover. A sample was provided to this office for examination and will be returned under separate cover.


The pullover portion of Style 1031757 is described as a T-shirt styled pullover, size Medium, constructed of jersey fabric, with a rounded close-fitting neckline and narrow long sleeves.


Whether the submitted garment is properly classifiable as a T-shirt in heading 6109, HTSUSA?


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 requires that classification be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, taken in order. Where goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining GRI will be applied, in the order of their appearance.
The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. The EN to heading 6109, HTSUSA, describe T-shirts as follows:

The term "T-shirts" means lightweight knitted or crocheted garments of the vest type, of cotton or man-made fibre, 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.

In addition, The Guidelines for the Reporting of Imported Products in Various Textile and Apparel Categories (Guidelines), CIE 13/88, dated November 23, 1988, state:

Other T-shirts in Heading 6109, which are assigned Category 338/339/638/639/838, must be constructed of the underwear type and from lightweight, knit underwear-type fabric, not napped, nor of pile or terry fabric, with or without pockets, and with long or short close-fitting sleeves. The garments should have a close-fitting or lower neckline (round, square, boat- shaped or V-shaped) and may have decoration, other than lace, in the form of pictures, words, or letters, obtained by printing, knitting, or other processes. The bottom of the garment is usually hemmed. A ribbed waistband, a drawstring, or other tightening at the waist is not allowed. Buttons or other fastenings, openings in the neckline, and collars, are not allowed.

As illustrated by numerous dictionaries, the term "T-shirt" in the United States adheres to a narrower and more specific definition which precludes the long-sleeved version of the same garment. Sample definitions include:

A collarless, lightweight, short sleeved pullover shirt of cotton, The Living Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary (1975)

A short sleeved shirt having the shape of a T, The Oxford American Dictionary, (1980)

A short sleeved, collarless men's undershirt, Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary, (1984)
A short sleeved collarless undershirt, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, (1992)

As was established by the court in United States v. C.J. Tower and 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. In the United States it is a well- established commercial reality that the commonly held view of what constitutes a T-shirt is the basic short-sleeved garment. This is in keeping with the "T" shape of the garment for which it was named. In those instances where the basic T-shirt is altered, an adjective is added to the description to emphasize the modification made to the commonly known garment. Thus, advertisements seen for a "long sleeved" Tee, describe to the purchaser the way in which this particular garment differs from the commonly recognized T-shirt.

In the Harmonized System, each heading is assigned a four digit number, and each associated heading, if any, is identified by a six digit number. Further subordinate subdivisions may be created by countries adopting the system to meet national tariff or statistical needs. Thus the classification of articles under the HTSUSA is based on a ten digit system.

On the six digit international level, subheading 6109.10, HTSUSA, provides for T-shirts, singlets, tank tops and similar garments, knitted or crocheted, of cotton. Insofar as all garments described within the parameters of that six digit level are included within the scope of heading 6109, HTSUSA, the U.S. may adjust the scope of the term T-shirt at the ten digit level in accordance to national usage.

Though the description of "T-shirt" in the Guidelines and the EN is inclusive of long close-fitting sleeves, this type of long-sleeved garment is commonly recognized as a "T-shirt" in the international community more than in the U.S. market. Accordingly, the classification of this type of garment is modified at the ten digit level to meet the domestic commercial reality. That is to say, this long-sleeved garment with traditional "T-shirt" features is classified as being similar to the traditional short-sleeved "T-shirt" recognized in the U.S.

The Oxford American Dictionary defines the term "similar" as:
1. like, alike, resembling something but not the same

It follows that a garment featuring long, close-fitting sleeves, resembles the commonly known short-sleeved T-shirt.

The issue of inconspicuous and conspicuous features with regard to T-shirts was discussed in HQ 950192, dated April 23, 1993. That ruling provided that to qualify as similar to a T-shirt, the article must have the general appearance of a T-shirt, no conspicuous non-T-shirt features, and no more than two inconspicuous features.

The subject long-sleeved garment has what are considered "traditional" T-shirt features, namely, lightweight, knitted jersey fabric, with a close fitting neckline, and hemmed bottom. The presence of the long, close-fitting sleeves is a factor which distinguishes this garment from the commonly recognized T-shirt in the United States. Though the featured long sleeves may preclude classification as a T-shirt, it is not considered a conspicuous non-T-shirt feature which would preclude classification in heading 6109, HTSUSA. The presence of the long close-fitting sleeves brings it to the "other" subheading level of heading 6109, HTSUSA, as similar to a T-shirt.


The pullover portion of Style 1031757 is classified in subheading 6109.10.0070, HTSUSA, which provides for, inter alia, women's or girls' T-shirts, singlets, tank tops and similar garments, knitted or crocheted, of cotton, other. The applicable rate of duty is 21 percent ad valorem and the quota category is 339.

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 negotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available we suggest your client check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an issuance of the U.S. Customs Service which is updated weekly and is available for inspection at the 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, your client should contact the local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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