Anthony T. Kirby—resplendent in brown-and-orange-striped tie of natty knitted silk and shirt of subtle check, both of his own design—declares himself a neckwear man. "The 'T' stands for Tyrone, my middle name, but also for ties, terrific, and tenacious." All words that loyal customers of Anthony T. New York Dress Furnishings would use to describe the man who comes to their offices, homes, and hotel rooms to tempt them with his range of custom-made silk and knit ties, bow ties, heirloom foulard pocket squares, and the occasional ascot.
Kirby has been meticulous about his clothing since he was a kid growing up in Philadelphia: Instead of dissecting frogs in school he dissected his classmates' ties, making them thinner, in the style of the day. For his high-school graduation he bought himself a beaded-stripe worsted Calvin Klein suit and paired it with a lavender shirt with white cuffs and collar and a heavy woolen purple plaid tie—in June. He sharpened his taste in menswear and learned the art of the sell working at Polo and Peter Elliot on Madison Avenue. In 1995 he broke out with a line of his own, showing his collection of 13 ties to anyone who would take a look.
Those who liked what they saw told their friends. Eddie Hayes, dapper lawyer about town and Tom Wolfe's model for Tom Killian in The Bonfire of the Vanities, bought Kirby's ties and advised clients and colleagues to do the same. "Anthony's a lovely guy with perfect taste," says Hayes. "He'll come up to the office on a day you're depressed and bring a bunch of ties and just brighten things up." Not a bad endorsement from a guy known for the size of his closets and for having his suits made with his pal Wolfe at the city's best Italian tailor. "Eddie is a true clothing aficionado and a very cool guy," says Kirby. Word of mouth led to appointments with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (who wears Kirby's English socks) and a slew of prominent attorneys and business folk. The convert he's proudest of is a real man of the cloth, Dr. Gary V. Simpson, pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York.
Generally, a visit from Anthony T. becomes something of a habit for his clients, men and women alike. Maybe they mean to buy just a tie or two, but when he opens up his silk-lined suitcases, they're hooked. It starts with his having ties that nobody else has. Add a vintage pocket square, monogrammed socks, or a pair of dandyish slippers in woven silk, windowpane wool, or a paisley print and you're a goner. "The first time I met Anthony T., he came in with his rolling suitcase and I fell in love," says media consultant Anne Buford. "He dropped off some swatches for me before Valentine's Day, and I ended up ordering two dozen ties for my boyfriend and my brother."And with plans for an online store to be ready this spring, with a collection that includes brightly colored tote bags and custom shirts, an Anthony T. fix will be just a click away.
Kirby understands the obsession. "When I see grenadine silks or ancient madras I just go ooooooh!" he says. "Once someone feels that and sees how it all comes together, you've got a customer for life."
By appointment only. Allow four weeks for a custom order. Ties, $85-$150; 718-783-2570.