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HQ 960579

February 11, 1998
CLA-2 RR:TC:TE 960579 jb


TARIFF NO.: 6203.31.0020

Asher Rubinstein, Esq.
Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz & Silverman LLP 245 Park Avenue, 33rd Floor
New York, NY 10167-3397

RE: Classification of men's wool suit-type jacket; EN to heading 6103, HTSUSA

Dear Mr. Rubinstein:

This is in reply to your letter, dated May 13, 1997, on behalf of GFT, USA, Inc., supplemented by additional documentation on May 22, 1997, and January 29, 1998, regarding the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), for what you refer to as a men's woven wool upper body garment. A sample was provided to this office for examination.


The subject garment, referenced style number 1427-1, is a man's woven wool upper body garment featuring lapels, long sleeves, outer breast pocket, two interior breast pockets, an interior pocket below the waist, two flapped exterior pockets at the waist, and four panels, two front and two back, sewed together lengthwise. The garment has a full frontal opening without any means of closure. You state in your letter that after importation a closure may be added through the additions of buttons and button holes.

In your opinion this garment is precluded from classification in headings 6201 and 6203, HTSUS, as an outerwear garment or suit-type jacket, respectively, and is properly classified in heading 6211, HTSUS, as an "other garment". In support of this claim you state:

1. the subject garment is similar to the garment which was the subject of HQ 954335, dated July 8, 1993, which was classified in heading 6211, HTSUS;

2. the subject merchandise provides no protection against the elements; HQ 952270, dated February 1, 1993, wherein a men's jacket lacking a means of closure was excluded from classification in heading 6203, HTSUS, is cited;

3. GRI 1 supports classification in heading 6211, HTSUS;

4. the Guidelines for the Reporting of Imported Products in Various Textile and Apparel Categories, CIE 13/88 (Guidelines) represent the present position of the Customs Service; any deviation from the Guidelines is only appropriate after a notice and a comment period.


Whether the subject merchandise is classifiable as a men's suit-type jacket in heading 6203, HTSUS, or in heading 6211, HTSUS, as a men's other garment?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, taken in order. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI.

There are several plausible classifications for the subject merchandise. The first plausible classification, heading 6201, HTSUS, provides for among other things, men's overcoats, wind-jackets and similar articles. The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (EN) to heading 6201, HTSUS, state that "[t]he provisions of the Explanatory Note to heading 61.01 apply, mutatis mutandis, to the articles of this heading". The EN to heading 6101, HTSUS, state in pertinent part, "[t]his heading covers a category of ..... garments for men or boys, characterised by the fact that they are generally worn over all other clothing for protection against the weather". Secondly, heading 6203, HTSUS, provides for, among other things, men's suits and suit-type jackets. The EN to heading 6203, HTSUS, state that "[t]he provisions of the Explanatory Note to heading 61.03 apply, mutatis mutandis, to the articles of this heading". The EN to heading 6103, HTSUS, provide a definition of "suit" and the required construction of a suit jacket. They state in pertinent part:

This heading covers only men's or boy's knitted or crocheted suits and ensembles, jackets, blazers, trousers, breeches and shorts (other than swimwear) and bib and brace type overalls.

(A) For the purposes of Chapter Note 3(a), it should be noted that:

(a) the "suit coat or jacket" designed to cover the upper part of the body has a full front opening without a closure or with a closure other than a slide fastener (zipper). It does not extend below the mid-thigh area and is not for wear over another coat, jacket or blazer; (Emphasis added)

(b) the "panels" (at least two in the front and two at the back) making up the outer shell of the suit coat or jacket must be sewn together lengthwise. For this purpose the term "panels" does not include sleeves, facings, or collar, if any;

(c) a "tailored waistcoat", whose front is made from the same fabric as the outer surface of the other components of the set and whose back is made from the same fabric as the lining of the suit coat or jacket, may also be included in the set.

Finally, heading 6211, HTSUS, which provides for, among other things, other garments, a basket provision for garments not elsewhere specifically provided for under the tariff, merits consideration.

We agree with your assertion that the subject garment is not classifiable in heading 6201, HTSUS, because it is a provision reserved for garments considered as outerwear which offer protection against the elements. As the subject garment is neither made of a heavy weight outerwear fabric nor has a means of closure to ensure protection against inclement weather, this heading can be eliminated. This office however, disagrees with your claim that the subject garment should similarly be precluded from classification in heading 6203, HTSUS. Although you argue that in HQ 954335, a garment similar to the subject garment was classified in heading 6211, HTSUS, in the opinion of this office the two garments are clearly distinguishable. The garment addressed in HQ 954335 was a casually styled men's upper body garment. The garment was described as featuring " a full frontal opening without a closure, long sleeves, two side patch pockets at the waist, a notched collar, lapels, two front panels and two rear panels, no linings or interlinings". The subject garment on the other hand, although bearing a little resemblance to the garment in HQ 954335, is distinctly different. The subject garment is not a casually styled garment, but has a more tailored or formal appearance. The submitted garment features an outer breast pocket, two interior breast pockets, an interior pocket below the waist, suit-type exterior pockets at the waist (not patch pockets), and a lining. This is hardly the garment which was classified in HQ 954335.

You state that the Guidelines provide that a suit-type jacket or blazer must feature a full frontal button or snap opening. Additionally, you accurately note that the Guidelines were published as a Federal Register Notice, Vol. 53. No. 249, December 28, 1988, in order to provide notice to the importing community of the appropriate category designations for garments and other items included therein. Accordingly, you conclude that as the subject garment lacks a "frontal button or snap opening" the garment is not classifiable in heading 6203, HTSUS. We bring to your attention however, the fact that you do not accurately construe the method by which, or the circumstances by which, those Guidelines are to be applied. The Federal Register Notice to which you refer clearly and explicitly states the following in the "Foreword":

....These guidelines do not purport to take into account every possible fabric, construction, and styling combination, since in wearing apparel especially, each season brings new styles.... As such, these guidelines are intended as indications of the types of construction and styling most likely to be encountered. Certain types of garments are so closely related in use though, that the corresponding category designations seem to overlap. In such situations it should be remembered that the guidelines are to be used as an aid in determining the commercial designation, and hence, the classification of an article. (Emphasis)

It thus follows that although the Guidelines are often used by Customs in those instances where a hybrid garment presents itself for which no guidance is given in the Explanatory Notes, the use of the Guidelines is optional. The intent of the Guidelines is as an aid to be used when needed. Such is not the case with the present merchandise. Not only does the overall impression of the garment lend validity to classification in heading 6203, HTSUS, but this classification is further supported by the explicit terms of the EN to heading 6203, HTSUS. We do not feel it necessary to go into explicit explanations regarding the weight of the EN relative to the Guidelines as we feel that it is commonly understood that while there is legislative history supporting Customs use of the EN in interpreting the tariff, no such legislative intent is attributable to the Guidelines. As such, any notion that deviation from the Guidelines is requisite of a public notice is completely erroneous. Furthermore, we direct your attention to the following rulings (and applicable rationale) which, in the final classification determination, did not follow the Guidelines:

HQ 951405, dated July 20, 1992- in a discussion of whether the garment was classifiable as a "blouse" or "jacket", a determination was made that the proper classification of the garment was as a jacket despite the terms of the Guidelines:

.... It is important, however, to remember that the Guidelines are not hard and fast rules, but guidance in drawing distinctions between classes of garments.... Although the garment at issue exhibits only one of the features listed in the Guidelines, i.e., a heavy-duty zipper, it possesses additional features which leads Customs to conclude it is a jacket and will be worn as such; (Emphasis)

HQ 951264, dated July 1, 1992- in a discussion of whether the merchandise was classifiable as an "other garment" or as a "brassiere", a determination was made, based on a close reading of the EN, that the merchandise was classifiable as a brassiere, despite the terms of the Guidelines:

Customs frequently refers to lexicographic sources for guidance in determining classification. Similarly Customs will consider garment definitions as set forth in the Textile Category Guidelines, CIE 13/88, dated November 23, 1988. We note, however, that dictionary definitions, particularly with regard to fashion items, are often limited and sorely dated as it is impossible to accurately reflect all the latest trends. The Guidelines tend to be more detailed, but they too are often limited and/or dated. Moreover, they are not binding on Customs, but are merely intended to offer guidance when classifying garments. With this in mind, Customs will examine these sources for their interpretive value when classifying garments, but will recognize that classifications based on static, narrow definitions may result in erroneous and dated conclusions. Industry trends must be taken into account because they reflect how a particular garment's role may have expanded, narrowed or completely changed in the fashion industry. Classification based on a physical examination of an article, combined with information as to how this garment is treated in the trade and commerce of the United States, results in the most accurate classifications; (Emphasis)

HQ 950974, dated April 7, 1992- in a discussion of whether the garment was classifiable as "tights" or as "pants", a determination was made that, despite the terms of the Guidelines, the garment was classifiable as pants:

.... However, Customs does not classify garments by the Guidelines, we classify according to the tariff and the principles of classification.... (Emphasis)

Similarly, your argument that HQ 952270 addresses a garment on point with the submitted garment has no weight. The garment that was the subject of HQ 952270 was a true hybrid garment which possessed features generally associated with both a shirt and a jacket. For those reasons the Guidelines were consulted and it was determined that the garment was not accurately described in any heading other than heading 6211, HTSUS. As we have already stated, but will emphasize again, the garment you have submitted to us is a men's suit-type jacket in every way except for the lack of buttons. This in itself will not preclude its classification in heading 6203, HTSUS. In fact, the EN to that heading explicitly state that a suit coat or jacket may or may not feature a means of closure.

As such, this office finds that based on a GRI 1 analysis, the subject merchandise is specifically provided for in heading 6203, HTSUS, in the provision for men's suit type jackets.


Style number 1427-1, is classified in subheading 6203.31.0020, HTSUSA, which provides for men's or boys' suits, ensembles, suit-type jackets, blazers, trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts (other than swimwear): suit-type jackets and blazers: of wool or fine animal hair: other. The applicable general rate of duty is percent 20.2 percent ad valorem and the quota category is 433.

The designated textile and apparel category 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 changeable 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
Commercial Rulings Division

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