In many ancient cultures fringes were a well-known style of dress rich with meaning.
Assyrians and Babylonians believed that fringes assured the wearer of the protection of the gods.
The fringed hem was ornate in comparison with the rest of the outer robe and frequently had tassels along the edges. This ornate hem was a "symbolic extension of the owner and more specifically of the owner's rank and authority. " [Donna: Think of this as one reason why David cut off the corner of Saul's robe--and why he felt so remorseful about usurping God's prerogative.]
Requests accompanied by grasping the fringes of the one from whom you wanted something could not be refused.
Exorcists used the hem of a patient's garment in their healing ceremonies.
A husband could divorce his wife by cutting off the hem of his wife's robe.
In Mari, an ancient city in what is now Syria, a professional prophet or diviner would enclose with his report to the King a lock of his hair and a piece of his hem....Sometimes the hem was impressed on a clay tablet as a kind of signature.
Fringes could also be pressed onto the clay instead of the hem. E.A.Speiser has suggested that when we press the corner fringe of the tallit to the Torah scroll we are reflecting this ancient custom.
The primary significance of the tassel in ancient times was that it was worn only by those who counted; it was the "I.D. of the nobility."