Even Vogue magazine, not famed for its male cover stars, bowed to pressure and stuck a naked Rob on the front, alongside Brazilian überbabe Gisele Bundchen.
His first appearance on the pop scene came in 1990, but in a remarkably different guise. Music svengali Nigel Martin-Smith had created a boyband called Take That, and the role of the "cheeky one" fell to 16-year-old Robbie.
Six years later, with songs like Back For Good, Relight My Fire and Could It Be Magic, and earnings of £80 million for their label RCA under their belts, the group split up. But Robbie was long gone. He had left the band in July 1995 after a wild weekend's carousing at the Glastonbury Festival in the company of Liam and Noel Gallagher.
"People looked at me like I was a zit on the end of their nose because I'm a member of Take That," said the teen pin-up, recalling that lost weekend. "They think I'm a prat."
When, in 1996, Robbie released his first single, a cover version of George Michael's Freedom, the prognosis was not good. But, when he returned a year later with the song Old Before I Die, it looked as though the handsome entertainer was back at his best.
Since then, his popularity has grown and grown, as has his stature as a songwriter. He and his musical partner Guy Chambers picked up two gongs, for Angels, at the UK's Ivor Novello awards and, thanks to three million-selling albums, have become the most sought-after musicians in London.
Voted the sexiest man alive by a women's magazine in 2001, Robbie has not been short of arm-candy in the past. Curbed by a "no girlfriends" rule in Take That, it wasn't long before Robbie had cosied up with the aristocratic daughter of a dentist, Jackie Hamilton-Smith. A long romance (and short-lived engagement) with All Saint Nicole Appleton was followed by a rumoured association with Geri Halliwell and a ten month relationship with model Rachel Hunter.
Robbie bought a house in Los Angeles in 2002, in an attempt to crack to American music industry. However, the talented singer's move across the pond was been blighted by bouts of depression and insecurity, despite his continued popularity in his native UK.
Ironically, while his former Take That bandmates reunited with phenomenal success, Robbie was struggling to overcome his demons and checked into rehab on his 33rd birthday, in February 2007. Fans and wellwishers were left hoping that the great entertainer and showman would return to his sparkling, world-beating best.
And return to his best he did. After finding love with American actress Ayda Field he staged a long-awaited comeback in the UK, calling the brunette beauty his "wife" in various interviews and revealing he's happier than he's ever been.
In 2009 the wheels were in motion for the star to stage him comeback on the music scene, having credited his new girlfriend with turning his life around and getting his career back on track. As it turned out, his first performance in three years could not have been more high-profile.
The much-loved singer secured a coveted spot on the X Factor to showcase his new single Bodies. But all did not go to plan. The door he was waiting behind failed to open, leading Robbie to give a nervy peformance. Headlines screamed that he wasn't ready to return to the charts and rumours abounded that his old demons and substance abuse issues had returned, with one newspaper even claiming he had been "wide-eyed, unblinking and glistening with sweat".
It couldn't have been further from the truth. He took to his blog to clear up the confusion, writing: "Now I don't know if you've ever had ten million (plus) people ready to judge you on your first performance back in three years, but let me tell you, if the door between you and them isn't opening that's enough to throw you right off your stride".
He put the episode behind him and wowed the crowds with further appearances on Jonathan Ross' chat show and at the Brit Awards in February 2010, where he picked up an Outstanding Contribution Award. His new album Video Killed The Radio Star rocketed to number two in the charts – pipped to the post by JLS' debut effort.
Later on that year, the news many fans had been waiting for was announced. Robbie was joining up with his old band mates to stage a Take That reunion, involving an album full of new material and a stadium tour planned for summer 2011.
A statement from the boys read: "The rumours are true... Take That: the original line-up, have written and recorded a new album for release later this year".
Along with his old bandmates, Robbie couldn't hide his excitement at the prospect. "I get embarrassingly excited when the five of us are in a room. It feels like coming home," he enthused.
It wasn't just his career that was going from strength to strenth in 2010. In August Robbie wed Ayda at their Beverly Hills mansion, telling HELLO! he was "the happiest man on earth" after tying the knot.