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It’s Just a T-Shirt! How Difficult Can It Be To Classify?

Posted May 30, 2018

Determining the correct tariff for knit tops, especially t-shirts, can be a daunting task, especially when t-shirt characteristics cannot be found within the HTSUS (not in the Section Notes or in the Chapter Notes). 

T-shirts are underwear-style garments; based on the garment characteristics, they can be classified as a t-shirt, similar to a t-shirt, other t-shirt or pullover. 

There are three resources available that provide the required garment characteristics necessary for tariff determination.

When I start the classification process for a t-shirt, the first resource or reference I grab is the CBP Informed Compliance Publication Classification: Apparel Terminology under the HTSUS. This publication includes a glossary of apparel types, which provides valuable information regarding the characteristics of most garment types within the definition.

In the Apparel Terminology reference, CBP defines the required characteristics for an underwear style t-shirt as:

  • constructed from lightweight plain jersey or interlock knit fabric =/< 200 gm²
  • with short close-fitting hemmed sleeves and a hemmed bottom
  • close-fitting or lower necklines (round, square, boat-shaped or v-shaped)


Men’s all-white cotton T-shirts, classified under 6109.10.0004 have the above required characteristics; close-fitting or lower necklines include round, square, boat-shaped,  crew, round or mitered v-neckline.


T-shirts with any of the below characteristics are excluded from 6109.10.0004 for Men’s or 6109.10.0037 for Women’s.

  • buttons or other fastenings
  • pockets
  • openings in the neckline
  • collars
  • embroidery
  • drawstring or other tightening element at the bottom
  • rib knit waist band
  • longs sleeves


T-shirts that meet the above required characteristics, but are dyed and include a single, plain chest pocket are considered to be “OTHER T-SHIRTS”.  “Other t-shirts” can have a screen printed design (NY N219388).  Men’s “OTHER T-SHIRTS” are classified under 6109.10.0012 for cotton or 6109.90.1007 for man-made fibers and Women’s “OTHER T-SHIRTS” are classified under 6109.10.0040 for cotton or 6109.90.1050 for man-made fibers.


T-shirts that have one or two relatively “inconspicuous” non-t-shirt features or characteristics are classified as “SIMILAR TO A T-SHIRT”. Men’s “similar to a t-shirt” are classified under 6109.10.0027 for cotton or 6109.90.1049 for man-made fibers and Women’s are classified under 6109.10.0070 for cotton or 6109.90.1090 for man-made fibers.

Examples of “inconspicuous” non-t-shirt features are:

  • a small applique
  • a small embroidery
  • shoulder pads
  • a small label
  • a small heat seal
  • side slits
  • a longer back panel or tail
  • a cross-over neckband
  • a sweat patch
  • close fitting long sleeves 


NOTE:  A t-shirt, which has the presence of more than two “inconspicuous” characteristics or any “inconspicuous” feature which is exaggerated, is excluded from 6109 and would result in the T-shirt being classified as a pullover in 6110.


T-shirts that have a “conspicuous” non-t-shirt feature are excluded from being classified under any of the 6109 t-shirt tariffs.

Examples of “conspicuous” non-t-shirt features are:

  • any heavy fabric > 200 g/m²
  • any fabric which is NOT plain jersey or interlock knit
  • a large applique
  • a large amount of embroidery
  • a mock turtleneck or high-crew neckline
  • a large label
  • a large heat transfer
  • pieced construction (inserts in the body, sleeves, collar or pocket)
  • wide, loose-fitting body or sleeves
  • double-layered fabric
  • sleeveless
  • loose-fitting long sleeves

Note: The presence of one “conspicuous” feature would result in the t-shirt being classified as a pullover in 6110.


A t-shirt is an underwear garment; any characteristic (no matter the size) that detracts from it being an underwear garment, excludes it from being classified under any 6109 tariff.

Lynne McGowan - Senior Textile & Apparel Specialist

GHY International | Geo. H. Young & Co. Ltd. | GHY USA, Inc.

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