The Journey Of “Hustler” Through The Years


If you search for “hustler” right now on the internet, you’ll get a variety of different results. Some of them are about Hustler, which is set to premier in September on the big screen. Some of them are about being a hustler: someone who makes a lot of money, sometimes illegally. And some of them are about HUSTLER® the brand, often about its steamy content and thriving online store. How do all these things come together? How can one word have so many meanings?

The word “hustler” has a long and storied history. That’s the main reason why it’s been used so many different ways; historically, its meaning has grown and changed over the years, and pieces have been left along the way. Take a trip into the past to find out what “hustler” has always meant.

1600s-1800s

In the 1600s, English speakers had only just heard of hustling. At the time, it was just generally used to refer to a shaking movement. However, even here, whispers of the future meaning can be heard: it was used as the name of a game called “hustle-cap,” which incorporated shaking money in a cap.

1820s

By this time, the American people had started to realize that moving fast was the key to success. To do that, they relied on the use of the term “hustle.” It wasn’t yet a word with much illicit meaning, although some people did find it a bit silly. If you’ve heard the phrase “hustle-bustle,” especially in reference to the inner workings of a big city, this is where it started.

1840s

This was when illegal activity started to become part of the identity of hustling. American English started developing the sense of “hustling,” or receiving something in a fast, illegal manner, in the 1840s. If you were hustling, you weren’t just moving quickly; you might be moving in a manner outside of the law.

1880s

Reaching further into the monetary side of things, in the 1880s, some people started using “hustle” to describe the act of aggressive salesmanship. It didn’t have to be illegal, but for some people, it may have seemed that way. If you were hustling, you were definitely getting money, but you may not have been making many friends.

Early 1900s

The growth of billiards and betting on games at the bar contributed to a phenomenon that’s still called “pool sharking” today. Pool experts would lure their opponents into a false sense of security, then quickly spring and win the game and their opponent’s money. This unsportsmanlike conduct was often referred to as “hustling.” A pool hustler was someone who made a living from doing this. If you were having a good time with your friends in a bar, the last thing you wanted was to be accused of hustling.

1961

This was a huge turn in the American usage of the term “hustler.” The Hustler, a movie based on a 1959 book, was released in 1961 to both critical and commercial success. It wasn’t just a movie about a pool hustler; it was a movie about a failed romance, an underlying evil, the battle inside every human, and more. Besides, it cemented the usage of “hustler” as someone who used tricks to play out their goal — even if they brought themselves down with it.

1974

This year brought about HUSTLER® magazine, published by Larry Flynt and distributed widely across the United States. It had a reputation for getting extremely explicit — sure, Playboy and Penthouse were around, but they didn’t have the unabashed nature that HUSTLER® did.

As HUSTLER® grew, its online store, HUSTLER® Hollywood, was also founded. Today, alongside the original magazine, HUSTLER® Hollywood has a reputation for delivering high-quality sex toys and other adult content. Its widespread usage has led to the hustler lifestyle being entrenched in a feeling of naughtiness ever since.

2019

One of the most popular current uses of hustler is as the name of an upcoming movie. Hustlers is slated for a 2019 release, and it’s going to be showing off Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Keke Palmer, Constance Wu, Lizzo, and more. As it follows a group of strippers hustling men out of their money, you’ll start to see bits and pieces of all these definitions.

Today, being a hustler isn’t just one thing. If you do a quick look around, you’ll realize that it’s about making money, being confident, and doing your thing.

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