In the early Aughts, male model Travis Fimmel made the fashion industry swoon with his perpetually-sun-kissed Australian surfer bod and long blonde hair. He is best known for his steamy Calvin Klein billboard, shot by Steven Klein, that reportedly caused traffic jams because drivers kept slowing down to stare. “I found him in a poolroom. He looked like James Dean at the time,” Calvin Klein recalled in an interview. “He walks into my studio, into my office, and it was like drop-dead… His presence was jaw-dropping. I called Steven Klein right away and said, ‘Don’t do anything. Just put him in the underwear and put him up against the window.'”
In 2002, he appeared in the cover of W with the then also on-the-rise Gisele Bündchen under the headline “White Heat.” “The kind of girls I like certainly wouldn’t know I did Calvin, and I certainly wouldn’t tell them,” he told the magazine at the time. “I’d just say that I’m working in a bar.” Later that year, he was named one of the world’s sexiest bachelors by People magazine and eventually he was said to be the inspiration for Samantha’s boyfriend on Sex and the City, Smith Jerrod.
Always a reluctant demigod, Fimmel eventually D’Angelo’ed and, uncomfortable with all the attention lavished on his physique, he retreated into private life.
By 2009, Fimmel was officially done with modeling. He shifted his focus to acting and landed small supporting parts here and there, including in a little-known film called Surfer, Dude, “a wave twisting tale of a soul searching surfer experiencing an existential crisis.” Deep. When he finally reappeared in earnest in 2013, he was almost unrecognizable as the warrior Ragnar Lothbrok (a far cry from Smith Jerrod) in the series Vikings, which ended its run in April. (It’s already been renewed for a fifth season by the History Channel.)
In the place of Fimmel’s blonde man bun was — what to call it? — a ponytail-buzz-cut-mohawk situation. The abs were still there, though. After all, deep inside his new lumbersexual look is a Calvin Klein boy from long ago. It’s no surprise that his favorite television character is Tony Soprano.
“I still want to be like him, not the gangster part but he was such a force and very manly,” he tells W, returning to its pages in the August issue for the first time in nearly 15 years. And that haircut, by the way? “It takes 45 minutes just to get my scalp tattoos painted on,” he says.
Thanks to the success of Vikings, Fimmel’s modeling career has become a nice memory. Now age 36, he’s since landed roles in feature films like Warcraft and even has a supporting role in the recent indie film Maggie’s Plan alongside Greta Gerwig, although he played a hipster with a beard. It’s clear that the Calvin Klein days are long gone. Fimmel isn’t taking his shirt off anytime soon because unfortunately for us, he doesn’t need to.
Photos: Travis Fimmel: From Calvin Klein Model to Lumbersexual
Travis Fimmel and Gisele Bundchen on the cover of W Magazine November 2002
Travis Fimmel at the 2002 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Photo by Getty Images.
Travis Fimmel at the 2002 Vanity Fair Oscar Party with Jessica Miller. Photo by Getty Images.
Travis Fimmel, 22, sits on his Yamaha motorcycle in 2002. Photo by Getty Images.
Sharon Osbourne and Travis Fimmel in 2003. Photo by Getty Images.
Travis Fimmel at the 2004 Golden Globes. Photo by Getty Images.
Travis Fimmel at the ‘Living The Vikings’ Panel for HISTORY at WonderCon in 2013.
Travis Fimmel attends a “Vikings” screening in 2016. Photo by Getty Images.
Travis Fimmel arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere of “Warcraft,” 2016. Photo by Getty Images.
Travis Fimmel wears a Gucci T-shirt; Tom Ford pants.
Photography by Mona Kuhn Styled by Patrick Mackie
Additional reporting by Jenny Comita.