It’s a T-Shirt! How’s Difficult Can that be to Classify?

Trade Talk Blog • September 9, 2021


etermining the correct tariff for knit tops, especially T-shirts, can be a daunting task. That is because T-shirt characteristics cannot be found within the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) – not in the Section Notes or Chapter Notes.

A T-shirt is an underwear-style garment. Depending on its characteristics, it can be classified as a T-shirt, Similar to a T-shirt, Other T-Shirt, or Pullover. In this article, we will help you understand the characteristics used to classify T-shirts.

When I start the classification process for a T-shirt, the first resource or reference I refer to is the US Customs and Border Protection (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 a T-shirt as an underwear style garment that:

  • is constructed from lightweight plain jersey or interlock knit fabric ≤ 200 gm per square meter;
  • has short, close-fitting hemmed sleeves and a hemmed bottom;
  • has close-fitting or lower necklines (round, square, boat-shaped or v-shaped);
  • does not have buttons or other fastenings, openings in the neckline, collars, embroidery, and other features inconsistent with an underwear style garment; and
  • does not have a drawstring, rib knit waistband, or other means of tightening at the bottom.
T-Shirt Classify Blog

Underwear T-Shirt Characteristics

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

Underwear T-Shirt Characteristic Exclusions

T-shirts with any of the below characteristics are excluded from 6109.10.0004 (for men’s T-shirts) or 6109.10.0037 (for women’s T-shirts):

  • buttons or other fastenings
  • pockets
  • openings in the neckline
  • collars
  • embroidery
  • drawstring or any type of tightening element at the bottom
  • rib knit waistband
  • long sleeves
  • dyed fabric

Other T-Shirt Characteristics

T-shirts that meet the required characteristics listed above but are dyed and include a single, plain chest pocket are classified as Other T-Shirts. Other T-Shirts can have a screen-printed design or a digital printed design (see CROSS Ruling 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.

Similar to a T-Shirt Characteristics

T-shirts with one or two relatively inconspicuous non-T-shirt features or characteristics are classified as Similar to a T-Shirt. For men they are classified under 6109.10.0027 for cotton or 6109.90.1049 for man-made fibers, and for women they 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 (armpit area)
  • close-fitting long sleeves

NOTE: A T-shirt with an exaggerated inconspicuous feature or more than two inconspicuous characteristics is excluded from 6109 and classified as a pullover in 6110.

T-Shirt Characteristic Exclusions

T-shirts with 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:

  • heavy fabric > 200 gm per square meter
  • fabric that 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 design
  • pieced construction (inserts in the body, sleeves, collar, or pocket)
  • wide, loose-fitting body or sleeves
  • double-layered fabric
  • sleeveless
  • loose-fitting long sleeves

Conspicuous non-T-Shirt Features:

  1. Excessive Embroidery – (CROSS Ruling NY N230437)
  2. Fabric Overlay on Sleeves – (CROSS Ruling NY N008057)

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 that detracts from it being an underwear garment excludes it from being classified under any 6109 tariffs – no matter the size. The following resources provide detailed garment characteristics for tariff determination:


    Lynne McGowan | GHY Sr. Textile & Apparel Customs Specialist

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