November 20, 2014 10:15 PM

Charlie Hunnam may be the hottest guy ever to straddle a Harley-Davidson on TV, but the Sons of Anarchy actor admits that he didn’t always look like a biker babe’s fantasy.

The U.K. native, who was selected by PEOPLE as one of 2014’s Sexiest Men Alive, says life as young bloke was much less different than what he experienced over the past six years as the star of FX’s addictive motorcycle drama.

“I find the awkward phases in life are cyclical more than something you grow out of,” Hunnam, 34, told PEOPLE. “My life has been a long succession of awkward phases punctuated by brief moments where I feel smoother than Dr. Slinky McDoogle, inventor of the word mellifluous.”

Asked to describe how he looked in high school, the 6-foot-1-inch actor admitted, “Like Kurt Cobain, but way less cool. And wearing a school uniform.”

During his run on SOA, Hunnam’s uniform was a leather vest, a pair of baggy jeans and a crisp, white T-shirt. Lucky for female fans, there were a few occasions when Hunnam, as SAMCRO president Jax Teller, was asked to strip down for a sexy scene. To prepare for those revealing moments, Hunnam said he liked to mix it up in the gym off-camera.

“It stops me getting bored and it ensures that the whole body gets worked,” said Hunnam, who has a steady girlfriend. “I hike, swim, I love the Stairmaster. I lift heavy some days but I usually do calisthenics when I’m in the gym. I also box and do yoga. Variety is the key.”

Remarkably, Hunnam’s chiseled looks have kept a lot of female fans at bay. When asked if he’s intercepted any marriage proposals over the years from ardent biker babes, Hunnam replied, “None so far.”

For more about Hunnam and the rest of our picks for Sexiest Man Alive, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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