For many Lions, the yellow vest has come to represent more than a colorful piece of attire. The Lions I interviewed spoke of the vest serving as both an international identifier and a beacon for community service. When asked, “What does the vest mean to you?” one of the most common responses given was simply: “Pride.”

Two Lions in their vests.

“A lot of people don’t wear the vests but we think it’s a tradition worth keeping alive. It’s important because it tells people where you’re from. And it also advertises that you’re a Lion,” says Malcom Tam, from Kalaheo, Hawaii, USA, standing next to Basilio Fuertes, from Waimea, Hawaii. Both are members of The West Kauai Lions Club. Fuertes agrees, adding “The gold color attracts the eye.”

Lions wearing their vests.

“The vest means service and community; helping others,” says Jill Friedrichs, from Mount Prospect Lions Club in Illinois, USA. Mike Witkowski, also a Mount Prospect Lion, says, “It shows that no matter who we are or what club we’re in, we share the same goal.”

Lions at Las Vegas Convention 2018

Ali Alp of the Istanbul Ciragan Lions Club (left), with Orhan Turay (right), poses wearing the shirt his club had specially made for the convention. It includes a peace sign to signify the peace Lions help spread across the planet.

Two Lions celebrate at convention, one wearing a vest.

“It shows Lion’s identity. It also shows that you’re proud to be a Lion,” says Henry Tan (far right), Singapore.

Lions wearing their vests.

Paula Ross-Brandt of the Brooklyn Leaders Lions Club in New York, USA (left) says, “This vest tells me who I am, where I am, and what service I provide.” Gillian Jansen (center), also a Brooklyn Leader Lion, says, “People see you and they immediately know you.”

Lions with rainbow-colored hair.

Peter Anderson, from Bellingham Central Lions Club in Washington, USA, sports a fun mohawk wig. Anderson thinks it’s important to show pride in being a Lion, but he prefers the Lions shirts over the vests. “The vests are a great identifier but I don’t think they work in today’s market. I think we need some uniform identifier—like a jersey or shirt—but we need to update our wardrobe.”


LCI#con Star is Born

Lion in a vest with a lot of pins.
Jay Puls shows off his pins.

Eighty-six-year-old Jay Puls had only been inside the MGM Resort and Casino for five seconds and he was already getting mobbed. Though he towered over the 20 or so Thai women that had surrounded him, his height wasn’t what had caused several of the ladies in orange vests to

erupt in choruses of “wows.” It was his vest. It was covered in pins. So many pins, in fact, that according to Puls, the vest weighed 4.5 pounds.

“Is this normal?” I asked, indicating the mob of people snapping photos and waving pins at him in hopes that he would trade. “Oh yeah,” he replied with a smile. “My vest is a magnet.”

The attention was nothing new for the Live Oak Lions Club member from Modesto, California. He wears the vest to all the conventions. “I have another vest that has everything on it—past this and past that. Everything but pass out,” he joked.

Puls wasn’t the only conference attendee to draw a crowd. When I first met Maxime Tougma of the Ouagadougou Zoodo Lions Club in Burkina Faso, so many people were clamoring to take a photo with him and his pin-covered vest, a line had begun to form. Though Tougma appeared

bemused by the attention, he was patient, too; smiling as Lion after Lion held out their cell phones and sheepishly asked if they could snap a selfie with him.

Lions wearing vest with many pins.
Maxime Tougma sees his pins as trophies of friendship.

All the notoriety had apparently earned Tougma the nickname “Star Lion.” Some of his club members had even jokingly referred to him as “007” because of the James Bond level of attention he’d received from the “charming ladies.”

But Tougma is proud of his vest, especially the pins. “The pins are trophies of friendship that I have been able to get from my Lions friends since my first participation in the Centennial Lion Convention in Chicago,” he said.

Tougma thinks wearing a Lions Club vest is important because it “harmonizes our identity." It's a sentiment other conference attendees expressed as well.


Photos by Reannon Muth.