It’s a match made in Canadian heaven. Roots is relaunching their iconic Tuff Boot with a limited-edition style designed by NBA Champion and Toronto Raptor Fred VanVleet.

Originally introduced in 1992, the boot was created to be a more stylish, lightweight version of the standard work boot. While the relaunch includes five colourways for men and women, the Roots x Fred VanVleet boot is the star of the collection. An ode to the basketball player’s team and adopted home, the style features a red and black plaid ankle cuff, custom-designed signed laces, a maple leaf tread and a collector’s edition Fred VanVleet leather keychain tag. “It’s a dream come true,” says VanVleet of designing the shoe. “Most people think about athletes with a signature sneaker on the court, so it’s really special.”

To celebrate the collaboration, the brand released a campaign video featuring VanVleet back in his hometown of Rockford, Illinois, where his journey began. From being a college superstar to going undrafted and then winning a championship with the Raptors (in addition to welcoming his second child during the conference finals), VanVleet has taken every setback in stride – and it’s paid off.

“I’ve had to be my biggest fan [because] I was always the underdog counted out,” he says of his motto, “Bet on Yourself.” “That was really born out of not being drafted – nobody wants to take a chance on me so I’ll bet on myself.”

We caught up with VanVleet at the launch to chat about fashion rivalries on the Raptors, how he stays focused and what’s on his Spotify playlist.

How has your style evolved over time? Is fashion something you were always interested in?

“I always liked to look nice. I didn’t [always] have access to nice things. Now, I’ve got a little bit more access, a little extra money. It’s something that’s developed as I’ve matured. I care about how my suit looks and I’ve got to have a belt to make sure I’m not sagging. As you grow older, you start to care about different things and fashion is one of those things that’s grown with me. I don’t know if I’ll ever visit fashion week [but] looking nice and putting things together, that’s the type of stuff that I’m into.”

Is there an outfit that you feel really good in?

“I’m into tracksuits and sweatsuits. I have my own clothing brand so we have some hoodies, tracksuits and sweats that are very comfortable. Maybe you won’t get into a club with it on but you can wear it to the airport. I like a polo [shirt] with dress pants. Just [pieces that are] real subtle, real smooth and nothing too flashy. It’s just got to look good and more importantly, it’s got to fit right, breathe right and [be] comfortable.”

Which Raptor has the best style?

“Oh, me for sure. I encompass it all. Serge [Ibaka] is probably up there, but he’s like all New York Fashion Week. He’s got to have his Balmain. He’s definitely got the most money in his closet in terms of how much his pieces cost, but I think I can put stuff together a little bit better.”

What players wear has become such a big part of the experience with fans. Do you feel pressured when you’re choosing what to wear or is it a chance to have fun?

“It’s just about personal preference and what you’re comfortable with. I’m a person who has always been comfortable in my own skin. I’m never chasing a trend. I’m never following what other people do. Outside of my own brand, I wear exactly what I want to wear. It may not always turn out good. I’ve worn some terrible ‘fits before, trust me. But for the most part, [I care if] I feel good in it. You’ve got to wear the outfit. Don’t let the outfit wear you.”

You have a reputation for staying calm under intense pressure. What’s your mentality like in those moments? 

“It’s just a game. The things that I’ve been through in my life, it’s allowed me to stay calm and have good perspective. I’ve studied meditation. I’ve studied self-control. I’ve studied different mind techniques that allow you to find a centre in the middle of all the hecticness. I’m not perfect. I get rattled sometimes. I just don’t show it. It’s a long game and whatever you do in the first quarter is not going to matter at the end of the game. There’s always enough time. The more you get rattled, the more you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot. If you stay calm, you’re giving yourself the best chance to win.”

It’s like chess. You’ve got to figure out the best move.

“Yeah, you just have keep working it. You may make a move early on that you’re like ‘Damn, I shouldn’t have done that.’ But if you focus on that, you’ll make another bad move and then another. You just have to learn from it, come back and set it up again. What’s worst that could happen? You could lose but at least you know that you did it with a clear mind and you’re not just killing yourself with bad thoughts or bad energy.”

How do you feel about going into the new season? What are you looking forward to?

“I’m really excited to have a bigger role. Being a champion and being able to defend that title. I’m just excited to get back out there. The play-offs were kind of validating. It was like, ‘I know why I’m here now.’ People got to see my true potential and what I could do as a player. Now I’ve got to do that for another 82 games. People are counting us out. Kawhi [Leonard] and Danny [Green] left, so everybody thinks that we’ll suck. The best part is going out there [with] that chip on your shoulder and getting stuff done.”

What’s on your playlist? 

“I listen to a lot of R&B. I don’t like to get hyped before the games. My [favourite] rap artists would be Drake, Rick Ross, Meek Mills and Lil Durk. That’s a quick four right there that I can always go to no matter what.”

You’re super proud about repping your hometown. How has Toronto become home for you?

“It’s really adopted me and my family, and embraced us with open arms. I think people here relate to me and my story. It’s been an unbelievable experience to live here, going on year four now, and it’s going by fast. We love it here. My kids love it. My daughter is a dual citizen. I definitely could see myself living here for a long, long time. Canada is really like a second home for us. This has grown into a place that we love to be.”

What do you do on your days off?

“We [go to] the aquarium a lot. My daughter loves it. I think my girlfriend loves it more than all of us. We used to live on Queens Quay, so we’d go right there all the time. We like to enjoy ourselves and the weather, when it’s good. Other than that, we watch Netflix and hang out like a regular family.”