Gary Barlow has always “struggled” with Take That’s heartthrob status.

The 50-year-old singer believes his band were helped in their early days by launching at a time when the charts were dominated by “faceless dance acts” as magazines were keen to put him, Robbie Williams, Mark Owen, Jason Orange and Howard Donald on their covers to attract readers, but the ‘Patience’ singer wanted to be celebrated for his work.

He told Sorted magazine: “We were five – I mean, I can’t include myself in this – the other guys were four extremely good-looking boys.

“And when we walked on stage, girls went mad. And the madder they went, the more we loved it.

“The funny thing was, the magazines catering to teenagers didn’t mind putting topless boys on the front of their magazines in the early 90s. It was a very strange time…

“It was almost like they were giving us a chance, not because the music was any good but because they could actually put faces on the front of their magazine that people would be interested in. We were on the covers of magazines before we had any hits, so image and fashion came first for us.

“And I’ll be honest, it’s always been an area I’ve struggled with.

“I was never the cool kid at school, I’ve always felt like I couldn’t be trusted to dress myself – I’m just a guy who writes songs.

“So that’s the bit I struggle with.”

Take That split in 1996, months after Robbie’s departure but reformed in 2005 and Gary – who is now only joined in the band by Howard and Mark – found their second shot at chart success “more natural”.

He explained: “As you can probably see, as our career advanced and we came back the second time, it was then, all of a sudden, all about the music, coming back as men.

“I found my feet at that point and it felt far more natural for me the second time around being in this band than it ever did the first time.”