Dornan was not keen to pursue modelling as a career but was persuaded by his step mother and sisters. In 2001, he took part in the Channel 4 reality show Model Behaviour. He was eliminated but signed a modelling contract with Select Model Management. In 2003, he modelled for Abercrombie & Fitch with Malin Åkerman. He then modelled for Aquascutum, Hugo Boss, and Armani. In 2005, he became the face of Dior Homme's fragrance advertising campaign. In 2009, he was made the face of Calvin Klein's 'CK Free' fragrance. Notable works include campaigns with Dior Homme and Calvin Klein (with both Kate Moss and Eva Mendes). In 2006, he was labelled "The Golden Torso" by The New York Times. He also appeared as a judge in Calvin Klein's model hunt competition, 'Nine countries, nine men, one winner'. In 2009, Calvin Klein unveiled a billboard of its jeans ad campaign in New York, featuring Eva Mendes and Dornan. This was accused of showcasing rude nudity and native residents demanded its removal.